Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

*UPDATED* Build Thread- Update of the old one from Modode

Last response: in Systems
Share
July 3, 2008 2:27:57 AM

*EDIT* Added an AMD Crossfire build in the $1000 range.

Now that 48x0 and GTX 2x0 series graphics cards upon us, I thought now would be a good time to update our thread. I am going to copy the relevant parts from the original thread to try and consolidate it into one post. As always, suggestions and comments are welcomed, especially some AMD builds in the mid-range.

Links are broken right now. I will fix them later!
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Introduction by Modode:
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).

Crossfire: ATI's version of SLI. It tends to be more flexable than SLI and allows the user to use superior Intel chipsets (see below). Crossfire like SLI allows up to 4 video cards to be used, but they do not have to be identical cards. For example a user could Crossfire a 4850 and 3870.

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 now here! The previous advice here was to wait or use eVGA's step program. However, ATI shocked everyone and released two killer video cards. Right now, the best bang for your buck is the 4850 or 4870 video cards solo or in Crossfire. At the very high end the $649 GTX 280 does have SOME merit, but its a very niche market.

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/Prod [...] 6819116036
Intel Pentium E2200 Allendale 2.2GHz 1MB L2 Cache
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6819116063
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/Prod [...] 6819115052
Runs cool, overclocks extremely well, great price.
Core 2 Duo E8400
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6819115037
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/Prod [...] 6819115017
Probably the best overclocker of the quad cores, though the 45nm Q9300 is close.

The original post listed the Q9450 in the high-end, and while I will leave it there, I will note that the Q9450 can also be at the high end of the mid-range @ 329.00 (current price- 7/2/08). It is a solid upgrade from a Q6600 and still overclocks well.


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/Prod [...] 6819115036
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/Prod [...] 6819115042
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/Prod [...] 6819115043


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/Prod [...] 6813128077

The mid-range has now shifted with the introduction of the P45 chipset.

Mid-Range: (best price/performance ratio, overclock very well, have everything
most people want/need)
GIGABYTE GA-EP45-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128345
MSI Neo-3FR LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813130180&Tpk=Neo%2b3-FR
ABIT IP35 Pro LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6813127030
EVGA 123-YW-E175-A1 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 750i FTW SLI
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6813188026
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).

Two new entries:
Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3R LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Crossfire Board
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128344

Asus P5Q Pro LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Crossfire Board
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131299&Tpk=p5q%2bpro

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/Prod [...] 6813131284
GIGABYTE GA-X48-DS4 LGA 775 Intel X48 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6813128336
XFX MB-N780-ISH9 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6813141005
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 (4-4-4-12 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/Prod [...] 6820231098
GeIL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6820144062


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/Prod [...] 6820231122[/L]
CORSAIR 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6820145184[/L]
G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1000
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6820231145
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/Prod [...] 6820145197
mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6820146785


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 $125:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6811129024


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/Prod [...] _-17151040
Thermaltake Purepower W0100RU 500W ATX 12V 2.0
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6817153052


Mid-Range, two excellent choices:
CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply 100
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6817139005
PC Power & Cooling S61EPS 610W Continuous @ 40°C EPS12V
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6817703005


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/Prod [...] 6817139006
PC Power & Cooling T12W 1200W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6817703012


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/Prod [...] 6814130290
SAPPHIRE 100226L Radeon HD 3850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6814102715


Mid-Range - Best Values Currently, can play all games on high to max settings:
4850. Example below:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814131111
4870:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814129113

High-End:
Currently this is comprised of the 4850CF and 4870 CF.
4850/70 CF scale either very well or very poorly depending on the game.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814131111 x2 Power Cooler 4850
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814129113 x2 VisonTek 4870

If you decide to go nVidia, on the high end the 9800GX2 is not a bad deal. It beats GTX280 and GTX260 in the majority of games.
eVGA 9800GX2:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130338

However, for $100 more 4870CF is a much better deal.

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/Prod [...] 6811147033
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/Prod [...] 6811119137
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/Prod [...] 6811112122
Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6811129021
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/Prod [...] 6822136218
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 500GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6822148288


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/Prod [...] 6822136260


DVD Drive:
Get an SATA one at this point - easier to install. I like this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6827151153
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/Prod [...] 6835233003
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/Prod [...] 6835186134
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/Prod [...] 6824009094]
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Part II: More in-depth explanations on some components:
CPU:

Low-end
Intel
E2180- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6819116052- 69.99
E2200- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] &Tpk=E2220- 89.99
E7200- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] &Tpk=E7200 134.99

AMD
Athlon 64 X2 4400+ http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] =4400%252b 59.99
Athlon 64 x2 4600+ http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] =4600%252b 66.00
Athlon 64 x2 5000+ BE http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6819103194- $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/Prod [...] &Tpk=E7200 134.99
E8400- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6819115037 189.99
Q6600- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6819115017 209.99
Q9300- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6819115043 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/Prod [...] 6819115042- 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/Prod [...] 6820231087
Extreme Value: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6820227139 $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/Prod [...] 6820231148

=====================================================================================
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/Prod [...] 6813131288 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/Prod [...] 6813128337 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/Prod [...] 6813131289 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/Prod [...] 6813128337 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/Prod [...] 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/Prod [...] 6813131219 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/Prod [...] 6813131284 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/Prod [...] 6813128336 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/Prod [...] 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.
=====================================================================================
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 !
=====================================================================================
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.
=====================================================================================
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: &Tpk=550VX]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] &Tpk=550VX
Power PC and Cooling 610W 6817703005]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6817703005
PCP&C 750W: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6817341011 (SLI certified)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Part II: Builds by Shadowduck. Send others by PM I will post them here.

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 AMD System: Goal $1000 Actual $1083 shipped before MIR

CPU - Phenom 9600 combo with 4850 Video card- 309.98- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103244
Sure, it's not as good as a Q6600. For the price, though, you can't beat this thing. You'll never run into the TLB bug if you don't use virtualization, so I would recommend it to most desktop users.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA790X-DS4
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128075

PSU - Corsair 650W ATX12V - $110 ($20 MIR) CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W
Very good quality PSU. Corsair makes great stuff.

Case - $100
Case choice is up to you.

Video - SAPPHIRE 100242L Radeon HD 4850 512MB - Combo with CPU http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102747
Great combo with the CPU.

Video 2 - SAPPHIRE 100242L Radeon HD 4850 512MB - $190 ($20 MIR) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6814102747
Crossfire for the win. It's almost as good as a GTX280. The $20 rebate is only redeemable once, so take it on the non-combo one.

RAM - 4GB DDR2-800 $10 MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820220269

Optical Drive - $30 Samsung 20x DVD burner
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827151154

Hard Drive: 250GB - $70- Seagate 250GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148316

Cooler - XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler - $37 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835233003
Optional, but top-flight stuff. Great for OCing.

*Does NOT include an OS like the other builds!*
============================================
Mid-Range Build: ~ $1,200 Currently: $1174.73 shipped before $50 MIRs
CPU: Intel Core2Duo E8400
Motherboard: Asus P5Q Pro
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
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling 610W ($25 MIR)
OS: Windows Vista Home Prem 64-bit
Video Card: Power Cooler 4850 $25 rebate
Arctic Cooling MX-2 compound

Good all around system.
Bad: Won't play Crysis on VeryHigh.

Can add another 4850 for $200 for a nice Crossfire system for under $1500.
============================================
High Middle Range Build: ~$2000 Currently: $1869.97 shipped before rebates or $2139.97 with Bluray Burner

CPU: Intel Core2Duo Q9450 Quad
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-X48-DS4 Intel X48
RAM: G.Skill 4GB DDR2-800 4-4-4-12
Hard Drive: 500GB Seagate 32MB cache
Optical Drive: LG Super Multi Blu-ray Disc Burner & HD DVD-ROM Drive Black SATA Model GGW-H20L or Samsung 20x DVD burner
Case:Antec P182
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling Quad 750W $20 MIR
OS: Vista Home Prem 64-bit
Video Card: Visontek 4870 x2 Crossfire
Arctic Cooling MX-2 compound
============================================
Middle High End- Goal: $3000 Actual Price: 3064.84 shipped before MIR

CPU: Intel Core2Duo Q9450 Quad
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-X48-DS4 Intel X48
RAM: G.Skill 4GB DDR2-800 4-4-4-12 x2 (8GB)
Hard Drive: 500GB Seagate 32MB cache for Data
Hard Drive:Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS 300GB- For OS and Programs
Optical Drive: Sony 8MB Cache 4x Bluray Burner
Optical Drive 2: LG DVD Burner Bluray/HD-ROM Reader (burns DVD, reads Bluray and HD-DVD)
Case:Antec P182
Power Supply: Corsair 1kW PSU $20 MIR
OS: Vista Home Prem 64-bit
Video Card: Visontek 4870 x2 Crossfire
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 :) 
July 3, 2008 2:57:24 AM

very helpful. Must have took you awhile to get that written :o  <3 Thanks!
Oh.. and how does the crossfire work ? you said it can have 4 graphics cards right? =o
!