Advice for first Custom PC

I have never made my own computer before and I don't know a lot about hardware, but I'll try to be as accurate as I can with what I want.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: August 09, I head back to school at the end of the month so I would like to get this bought and assembled by then.

BUDGET RANGE: Absolute maximum is $1500, not necessarily including the monitor, but if it is possible I'd like it all to be under that

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Internet surfing, music/video, gaming, documents/powerpoints - subject to change at school :P

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: I have a mouse and speakers and I don't mind buying a monitor separately, unless that's a problem when custom building

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: since this is my first time I really have no idea, sorry

PARTS PREFERENCES: Again I don't know much about this either, I'd just like everything to be reliable (and a side question here: how does warranty work for parts in custom PC's?)

OVERCLOCKING: I'm still not sure I fully understand what this is, but if anyone thinks I'll need let me know

MONITOR RESOLUTION: I'd like to get 1920x1200, I prefer a large screen with good resolution

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Overall I want a computer that has a lot of space and is fast enough to handle it all, and for it to look good while doing it. I don't game too too much, but when I do I want it to run smoothly and look as good as it can. Mostly what has kept me from gaming a lot is my laptop, which is currently on its last legs and dying fast. I do have a 1TB external so space isn't too much of an issue, but I'd like to keep my music on the computer (and I have a lot of it). I like to have a lot of things open at once, including games, so having everything run smoothly is important. Any advice on monitors will be good too. I plan to have this professionally assembled so no worries on how complex this may be.

Any recommendations on what and where to get parts are greatly appreciated!
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  1. To start things off right, welcome to the forums. :)

    A great internet site to buy parts from is
    If you happen to live in the area of one, Microcenter probably has the best deals on parts 90% of the time, though they only have a dozen or so stores in the US.

    Warrenty for custom PC's is a little more difficult than when you buy from someone like Dell. You need to figure out what part isn't working correctly, and then contact the manufacturer of said part about your claim. There's always people on the internet willing to help you investigate what is wrong though, so I personally don't worry about it.

    For a monitor, did you know that you can have 2 monitors hooked up at the same time, and move your mouse and drag windows between them as though they were one? I used dual monitors a lot in school, because you can be working on a paper or something on one monitor and watching videos, browsing the internet, or something else on the other. The only problem, is obviously the cost, and the space. You can find some cheaper, lower-resolution monitors though... I had a 19" LCD monitor and an old 17" CRT monitor attatched to my old PC before I upgraded and bought an Acer P243WAid 24" LCD. I was out of school by then and didn't really need dual monitors anymore. It's worth looking into at the least. I'm sure youtube has videos of people showing them off and explaining it better than I.

    You've got a decent sized budget, so I will recommend the Intel Core i7 920 for your processor:
    There's no faster (commercially available) processor on the planet than this baby! (if you don't count the "higher-end" versions of this processor, but they're way to overpriced)

    Since you don't seem to be interested in gaming or overclocking all that much, I'd recommend the ASUS P6T SE motherboard:
    Overclocking is basically where you manually adjust how fast your PC works for you. It is something mainly done by hardcore gamers or other "tech-savy" people to tune their PC for peak performance like you would a car

    Any DDR3 1333 or 1600 RAM will fit your needs, and I recommend 6GB of it (make sure you get 3 sticks though):

    For hard drives, I'd grab 1 or 2 of these:
    These are some of the best HDD's out there, and they come in 4 different sizes depending on how much space you want... If you don't know what RAID is, google or wiki it and educate yourself. You'll probably be most interested in RAID 0 or RAID 1

    You're going to need something to power all of this, and I must recommend a Corsair 650TX.
    Very reliable, not too expensive, and comes with all the cables you'll need. It is NOT modular.

    For your video, I'd recommend either of these:
    Nvidia GTX 260
    ATI HD 4870
    Either is a solid choice, and won't disappoint.

    Don't forget to grab a CD burner (or two) if you need:
    The details of what brand, or model you get for this really don't matter at all, but this is the one I got, and I'm happy with it.

    Last but certainly not least, you're probably going to need a case to put it all in. In all honesty, as long as it gets good reviews and looks sturdy and well built, it's all about personal taste. There's not much I can do to help, but I've got an Antec P182, and they make some other very good cases.

    I'm not going to lie, I wasn't keeping very close track of how much all of this was going to total up, but it should be well under $1,500 USD... Sorry for the giant post, but I wanted to provide you with a lot of info. I hope I've at least given you a good place to go from here. Good luck with the build! Let me know if you need any more help.

    edited for grammar and spelling
  2. Cdaveyj,

    I don't mean to be rude so please don't take it as such but if you've never heard of newegg or the term overclocking do you really have enough knowledge to be able to build a PC?

    While it's not rocket science if everything goes smoothly, it only takes a few minor problems to have you wracking your brain if your not familiar with the minor problems that occur regularly.

    Kufan's recommendations are good for what you're looking to build, I'd just get someone with some experience to help you.
  3. He did say in his post that he's having it professionally assembled.

    And yeah, all that stuff is good. That CPU will give you all the multi-tasking capability you need.
  4. For the usage the OP describes its not necessary to buy a top end i7 processor .

    You can build a very powerful [and better gaming system] than that, that includes a 22inch lcd for under $1000

    Phenom 940 be quad core
    790 series mb
    2 x 2 gig of ddr 2
    WD 640 gig hard drive
    quality 650 w psu
    antec 300 or similar case
    Ati 4890
    Acer 22 inch monitor
    there will be change from a $1000 to buy a keyboard and mouse

    It will easily handle all the non-gaming requirements , and with the better gfx card it will spank the i7 build in games as well
  5. While i don't disagree with kufan64 you may not be able to get a full school system (including operating system, monitor, printer,external HD,headphones) if you go with the higher priced i7/X58 at the $1,500 budget. Price out complete systems including all the parts you need, especially for a school system. Don't risk losing days/weeks/months of work by not backing up important files in multiple ways.
  6. @Outlander_04
    I would have recommended an AMD processor solely for the price reduction, but when I was in school, I did a ton of multitasking: streaming videos on the internet while playing Battlefield or CS and writing a few sentences of the paper I was supposed to be working on while waiting to respawn... etc. AMD doesn't hold a candle to Intel in that regard, and I felt the OP was basically going for something very similar.

    He also said that gaming potential wasn't the most important thing to him. That's why I suggested the GTX 260 or HD 4870 as opposed to say a GTX 275 or HD 4890. (which are both great cards, and a significant step up from the 260/4870)

    I assume that you assumed that the OP is in college and living in a dorm. Don't know if this is actually the case or not, but people in college dorms usually stick with laptops for their portability, so I guess I assumed the OP was in highschool, or had a place of his own. He said he already has an external HDD and didn't mention that he needed things like a printer, headphones, or OS. That's a lot of assumptions for everyone... Guess I'll just wait for cdaveyj to reply and set us straight.
  7. Whew, thanks for all the help and suggestions, and don't worry about long posts, the more information for me the better. I am in college and I do have a laptop, but it's not very good anything beyond papers and the internet. Not to mention it's physically falling apart. Aaannnyyyway, I do have a printer, headphones, mouse, and surround sound speakers so no need to worry about that. I have a webcam on the way also.

    I also forgot to mention that my mouse is bluetooth so I want the computer to be able to have that, but I figured it was just a small thing.

    Like everyone has pointed out, I don't game too much anymore, but again that was because of the laptop. I still don't do it that often, but every once in awhile a friend and I pull an all nighter playing WoW or some other game. So while not as important as it is to some other people, I still like it to be able to play without any hassle (except from the school's internet :P)

    I know this site has plenty of talk about parts, but I'm curious if there's a place with a side by side comparison or some kind of chart. No big deal, just something a little easier to look at than a forum. I haven't fully explored this site yet so if there is something like that on here then just ignore that question :D

    Again, thanks for the advice and anymore is appreciated.
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