First time build - looking for help choosing components.

Hello :)

I've recently decided to attempt to build a computer, as my current computer is a little out of date. I've done some research about the different components but i've got a bit lost. I have set myself a budget of around $850 (£600ish), though i wouldn't mind spending a little more if necessary.

I'm know there are loads of threads like this around, and i apologise if i've posted in the wrong place, but all tips and advice will be very much appreciated.

My main goal is to build a computer which can run all my current games (WoW, CoD4, Left 4 Dead etc.) on the highest settings with no lag and also some of the newer games too. I don't know if this is possible with my current budget but im hoping you guys will be able to point me in the right direction. I will be using a 20" LG monitor at a resolution of 1680x1050.

While i live outside of the US and won't be able to order from, i've been looking up the different components on there and have come across an AMD processor i think would suit me:
From the reviews i've read its a great processor, but will it work for gaming? I've read that intel is better for gaming but most of the well reviewed intel processors seem to be way out of my price range. Is this processor a good choice? Should i spend more and buy intel?

Most things i've read have said that the best thing to do after choosing a processor is to pick a compatible motherboard. I'm completely lost here, could anyone suggest a motherboard compatible with the above processor? Ideally i'd like to buy a motherboard which has good upgrade prospects so that it will last me quite a while.

As far as RAM is concerned ive found this on Newegg:
Is DDR3 RAM better than DDR2? Whats the difference? Would this type of ram be compatible with the kind of motherboard that would work the processor? Any suggestions here would really help.

As i am planning to play games, i'm guessing a good graphics card will be in order. I was thinking of something like:
But once again i don't know if it will be compatible with the motherboard/RAM etc. Is this a good card? Should i go for something cheaper?

Those 3 parts (CPU/RAM/graphics card) come to around $525 on Newegg. I realise that my budget may not allow me to spend that much on just those 3 parts, but im pretty clueless on how much an appropriate case/powersupply/fans/harddrive etc will cost. I already have a mouse/keyboard/speakers etc so those won't have to be included in the price.

Well, thank you for reading this far! :) I realise there are alot of questions here, but any help would be greatly appreciated!

19 answers Last reply
More about first time build choosing components
  1. There is a very good and up-to-date post on component selection stickied here at the top of the forum. I am right to assume you're ordering in the UK? If so, you might have a hard time matching the newegg price levels, from what I've heard. From my take on your build, with your budget a Core 2 Duo comes to mind first, and would cheaper than the AMD option you posted. The Phenom IIs, and Core 2 Quads are good processors, but gaming isn't where you get the best return on the money. Same with the i7s.

    But, if you're really serious about upgrade prospects, the Core 2 is going to be the last new processor supported by LGA775 motherboards. You'd be shutting off your options in that direction, though you can always upgrade your other components or go from a Duo to a Quad. Somebody else will have to fill you in on the AMD socket change forecast, but going with the i7 is the forward-looking (if expensive) Intel option. Once you actually pick a processor, there's only a small number of gaming chipsets that make sense for a motherboard, so that decision comes down to bells and whistles (e.g. SLI/Crossfire capable or no), manufacturer reputation and price.

    Pretty much any new graphics card will work with any new motherboard, since the PCI Express 16x 2.0 interface is the established standard. Tom's does a monthly graphics card ranking by price level, which is the best place to figure out what would work for you.

    As far as RAM, if you go with the Core i7, 6GB of DDR3 is typical. With any other processor, go with 4GB of DDR2 800 from a reliable brand. DDR3 is faster, more expensive and required by the i7. The RAM speed isn't going to make a difference with other processors though, so it's not worth the cost even though a small number of LGA 775 motherboards support it.

    If you add some more info (like this post recommends) you might get some more input, especially on the AMD side.
  2. For gaming, Duo's are the best option because most games will not utilize all 4 cores, they are only coded to use 1 or 2. You will actually get better performance out of a duo because you can clock it higher and run it faster than the Quads, due to the fact that they produce much less heat.

    Look at something like this:

    Do not go for DDR3, it offers minimal performance gains over DDR2 and is twice as expensive.
  3. Here's a nice bundle.

    It has a 3-core CPU, using the brand new socket AM3 format, a good MB, RAM (4GB of DDR3), an Arctic Cooling cooler, and it's already overclocked.

    - 1 x AMD Phenom II X3 Tri Core 720 2.8GHz @ 3.5GHz (Socket AM3) - Retail
    - 1 x Corsair 4GB DDR3 XMS3 PC3-1600C9 DHX (2x2GB)
    - 1 x Arctic Cooling Freezer 64
    - 1 x Gigabyte GA-MA790XT-UD4P (Socket AM3) PCI-Express DDR3 Motherboard
    379 pounds for the total

    Add a HD 4870 1GB now for 164 pounds and another one later when you have more cash, and if you need it.

    That MB supports two ATI cards in CRossfire. It will also support a GTX 260, but not two. Get a Corsair 650W or 750W or a PC Power & Cooling 750W if you're interested in the two-card idea. If not, a Corsair 550VX should do.

    The Phenom X3 720 is normally a little slower than an E8500 in games that don't support multithreading. However, overclocked to 3.5GHz, it's better than the stock E8500. If you don't want to do the overclocking yourself I guess it's a good idea. It will of course beat even an overclocked E8500 in applications that do use 3 cores, or if you run more than one thing at the same time.

    If you want to play with overclocking yourself, get an E8500/GA-EP45-UD3P/2x2GB DDR-800/Scythe Ninja combination.
  4. BTW, +1 for the HDT-S1283. It's a little better than the Scythe Ninja IMO. On the other hand, I found the Scythe Ninja at, but not the HDT-S1283. I'm using a Ninja myself these days and it's not bad at all.
  5. On a tight budget, I'd suggest using the Intel E5200 processor to save cash, which allows you to put more towards the video card. Aim for the maximum overclock by using the Xigmatek HDT-S1283, as the others above have pointed out.

    Antec 300 is probably the best budget gamer case with good cooling (to allow for overclocking) and if you need to shave a few pounds on the HDD, try using the WD Caviar SE16 320GB drive instead of the faster Caviar Black 640. If I had to tradeoff anywhere on a gaming rig, I'd probably be inclined to shave the HDD first over the other more critical pieces.

    I think the E5200 on maximum overclock is the way to go here.
  6. Thanks for all the replys, they have been very helpful :)

    Since reading your replys, i have revised my budget a bit, and i've come up with this basket on
    Mobo/processor/memory/fan bundle:
    Video card:
    Hard drive:
    Optical drve: (didnt really know what to look for when picking this, if someone could suggest one it would be great :))

    As you can see i have included the bundle which Aevm suggested, which includes an already overclocked tri-core processor. I have heard mixed comments regarding AMD or Intel but i im worried about buying a dual-core processor as ive heard that newer games are starting to take advantage of more cores, and the newer intel quad-cores are out of my price range. Will this bundle be alright for running games?

    I have chosen the Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 4870 off Aevms recommendation, plus ive heard lots of good things about it. The idea of buying another and using Crossfire sometime down the line appeals me to me also. Im guessing it will be of a high enough specification, but just to double check is it compatible with the motherboard included in the bundle above?

    The PSU i have chosen is the Corsair TX 750W ATX2.2 SLI Compliant Power Supply, would that be appropriate to run this kind of system? I realise it may be more power than i need right now, but im hoping it will last me a long time and will save me having to buy another one if i decide to upgrade, or in a possible future build, the same with the case.

    A few other things i was wondering about were: Should i buy an already overclocked processor, or should i buy another processor and attempt to overclock myself? The bundle comes with a Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 fan which i assume will be enough to keep it cool after the overclock.

    Will the parts i have selected so far come will all the leads/cables required, or will i need to buy extra ones?

    Using these current planned specifications will it be capable of running games such as WoW, CoD4, Left 4 Dead, Fallout3 etc on high graphics settings? And what kind of framerates can i expect?

    Lots more questions here so thanks for reading and all help is greatly appreciated :D

  7. The 750TX comes with all the cables you need even if you add a second video card.

    The motherboard should come with at least 2 SATA cables, but I couldn't confirm this. At worst you'll have to buy a SATA cable for the HDD and one for the DVD. Wait until you get the motherboard because I think you will get some cables. I have an older Gigabyte MB and it came with 4 SATA cables.

    In CoD4, that HD 4870 1GB should deliver 67 fps, give or take a few.
    Since your LCD refreshes at 60Hz (most likely), expect 60 fps.

    In Crysis it gets 49 fps. I'm pretty sure it will do at least that much in any game, because Crysis is one of the most demanding games I can think of.

    Fallout 3: 53 fps average

    Left 4 Dead: 98 fps at 1920x1200. Guessing over 120 fps at 1680x1050. Again, you only get 60 fps because the monitor will be a bottleneck.

    WoW: 76 fps. Again, 60 fps actually displayed by the monitor.,2845,2335395,00.asp

    These numbers come from different systems, with different CPUs. Your overclocked CPU may be slower or faster than some of the CPUs used by reviewers, but I don't think it will make any visible difference.
  8. Thanks for the quick reply Aevm.

    I'll be running the games on my 20" LG monitor at 1680x1050 so those framerates look good, as long as the gameplay is smooth and it doesnt lag about ill be happy :)

    I'm still wondering about the videos cards compatability with the motherboard and about the PSU, is the wattage correct/high enough? Is it generally a good and reliable brand? (I guessed it was when i picked it because its made by Corsair, and ive heard some good things about their memory but not that much about their PSUs.)

    If you could shed some light on these issues it would be great :)
  9. Corsair makes some of the best PSUs out there. No worries on that point, seriously. The 750TX in particular has got plenty of awards.

    The wattage is actually less important. What you need to care about is the amperage on the 12V rails. It has 60A, which is a lot. That is, it's more than most other PSUs that also claim 750W. It is more than enough for a quad CPU and two HD 4870 cards and a bunch of hard drives.

    If you prefer, you can save one pound and get the PC Power & Cooling 750W.
    Same thing - 4 connectors, 60A, top quality, etc. That's the PSU I have myself. The main difference is that under very heavy load the Corsair is 4 dB quieter (but both are pretty quiet anyway), and the PC Power & Cooling has a better layout allowing hot air to get out through the back of the case.

    The Corsair 750W is certified by AMD for two HD 4870 cards. The PC Power & cooling isn't, but it's got exactly the same specs.

    Smooth gameplay depends on:
    - average fps - you'll be absolutely fine on this point
    - hard drive speed (which can cause stuttering) - no worries, the WD 500 Black is very fast
    - RAM amount - again no worries, 4GB is enough. This review shows that 4 GB is a major improvement in games over 2 GB, but 8 GB is a very small improvement over 4GB.
    - your Internet or LAN connection (for multiplayer) - this depends more on your ISP or local network than on your PC, so you can't do much about it
    - CPU - you're getting something pretty awesome, so no worries there either. If a game uses one or two cores you still have a third to take care of background tasks or Windows Services and that will help avoid stuttering
  10. As far as SATA cables go, the pic on newegg has a bunch included with that motherboard, so you should be fine.
  11. Thanks for all the info you guys have posted here, its been really helpful.

    Im still undecided in regards to the PSU though. You mentioned the PC Power & Cooling 750W Aevm and i was just wondering how much difference it would actually make. I read some reviews on newegg and it isnt rated as highly as the Corsair TX 750w. Have you ever had any problems with yours? When you say that the PC Power & Cooling 750W allows more hot air to get out through the back of the case, what exactly do you mean?

    Thanks for reading and all comments and greatly appreciated as always :)
  12. Either one of those PSU's will do fine, the red PCP&C seems to have a lot of DOA's recently which would make me go for the 750tx. They are the same price with rebates.
  13. I never had problems with my PSU.

    Look at the photos on Newegg's site. The PC P&C's fan blows to the back of the case. The Corsair's fan blows up into the case or down into the floor, which IMO is less useful.

    All right, get the Corsair if you feel better about that one. If you don't like that either, try something made by Seasonic or Silverstone or Enermax or Antec.
  14. Sage advice from aevm throughout.

    The PCP&C uses the "straight-through" cooling design while the Corsair flows air through the PSU in a 90 degree bend because the fan is on the bottom. Corsairs have ideal airflow when mounted at the top of the case, while PCP&Cs are very good bottom-mounted (OK, maybe we're splitting hairs here). I too use a Silencer myself and do prefer PCP&C.

    Keep in mind that the issue with the DOA red PCP&C Silencer 750s could be more of an American problem and since you are in the UK, the risk may be a little different. I'm inclined to think that the recently elevated DOA incidence was due to either rough shipping (because PSUs are so weight dense) or a systemic problem affecting a particular production batch.

    One final point--since the HDD is a bit of a long-term investment, I'd pony up a little more change and get the 640GB version of the Caviar Black. HDD speed is correlated to platter density (higher = more speed), and here are the numbers for the WD Caviar Black lineup:

    1Tb: 166.7 GB/platter
    750GB: 150
    640GB: 160
    500GB: 125

    You'll notice that the 500 is the laggard here and 640 is the sweet spot.

    Good luck!
  15. Thanks for the info on the two PSUs everyone. Im still undecided on which to get but ill let you know once ive made a decision.

    Thanks for the suggestion about the Caviar Black 640GB HDD Akebono. I wasnt aware there was a difference in speed between the two and the 640GB is only about £10 more expensive than the 500GB so ill go with the 640GB one instead :)

    Are there any other things i would need for physicaly putting the computer together other than whats already in my basket? Im guessing i will need one of those anti static wrist band things (excuse my terminology :P) but are there any other important tools/equipment i would require?

    Doug :)
  16. The anti static wrist band is not really necessary if you are careful. That is, handle parts only by the edges, don't work on carpet, no pets in the room, touch the PC case or the fridge or some other big metallic object to discharge electricity before picking up parts.

    Other tools: a screwdriver is generally useful. Q-tips for spreading thermal paste, maybe.
  17. aevm said:
    Q-tips for spreading thermal paste, maybe.

    Q-tips can sometimes leave bits of fiber in the paste. A credit card usually works well.
  18. I prefer a knife edge, like a pocket knife or something so you don't get crap all over your card
  19. Should be a pretty easy build, given that it's *already overclocked*... the hardest thing that you get to do is to install the OS! :p

    Since you're in a northern climate and it's the middle of winter, I'd suggest that you build it on your kitchen table and boil water on the stove beforehand--that increases the ambient humidity and thus cuts down on electrostatic discharge.

    You'll also need plastic zip ties if you want your cabling to look nice.

    I believe that MX-2 comes pre-applied on your bundled cooler, so you don't have to mess with that--just mount it right the first time and you'll have nothing to worry about.
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