Advice on new PC - Graphics, processor, ram, etc - Expertise needed!

Hello everybody,

May I take this opportunity to welcome myself to the forum, lol.

Anyway, I was wondering if I could get some advice. Google searches about technical questions have always seemed to produce threads from tomshardware, it seems like the place to come to ask questions.

Basically, I am going to buy/build a computer from scratch. I love playing games, but my "technical" knowledge of such things is pretty limited. The more I seem to learn about computers, the more it becomes apparent how very little I know. I may not know a whole lot of technical stuff, but I just want to be able to play games on a super fast system, and I just think that because of my limited knowledge, I could end up spending too much on less important components, and too little on more important components. In other words, I could spend a lot of money in an ineffective way, and obviously that's not what I want to do!

I would therefore be very thankful if you guys could point me in the right direction. I have some specific questions, but please feel free to throw in any advice you think I would benefit from.

As I said, I love playing games, and at the moment I have the luxury of a pretty big budget with which to build my "rig". Theoretically I could spend 4-5k (UK pounds), but I'd prefer to do it much cheaper than that.

Ok so here's a list of some of my questions..

1. HDD vs SSD. I want large amounts of storage, so I will definitely be getting an HDD, but there seems to be the option of having an SSD running alongside an HDD. Is this worthwhile? I mean, is it a good idea to get a 1tb hard drive, but also have, say, a 128GB SSD running alongside? What are the advantages of this, if I do this? Would it speed up and improve gameplay, or simply speed up the loading times?

If I were to go down this route, would I store my OS (Windows 7 soon, I hope) on the HDD, along with all my multimedia files etc, and then just load games onto the SSD? Or would the OS go on the SSD? Is this an easy way to use a computer, having an HDD along with an SSD? Or is it pointless...? Also, would I see big improvements with a couple of 10,000rpm 300gb Velociraptor HDDs over standard bigger capacity 7200rpm drives?

Are hard drives that important to gaming speed?

2. Graphics cards - from my reading, it seems that the GTX 295 performs better than the ATI 4870 X2 in gaming benchmarks. I think I will probably go SLI/Crossfire, and probs go with Nvidia, although ATI support directx 10.1, and that's a good thing, right? Any point in having 3 cards?

Anyway, with Windows 7 just around the corner, and the 4870 x2 almost a year old, are we likely to see graphic card upgrades soonish? I read that the 5870 is imminent, according to supposedly reliable sources... If I'm spending a lot of money on this system, I'm quite happy to wait a month or 2, if it's going to mean big performance improvements.

Will the next gen cards support directx 11, and is this a big consideration?

3. Processor - how important for general gaming performance? If I get an SLI/Crossfire setup, will I see big performance boosts from an i7 processor? Is it worth it, in your opinion?

What about the i7 975 extreme? Worth the money? Or are you paying a massive premium for only small real world improvements in gaming?

4. Ram - how much is enough? I mean, is 12gb gonna reap extreme gaming rewards compared to 6gb? Is 1800mhz DDR3 good stuff?!

5. Motherboard - apart from compatibility with certain graphics cards etc, does your motherboard itself have an important impact on overall performance?

6. Why are all custom computer cases so damn ugly and tacky?!! There's got to be some cool ones out there!

7. Is it much cheaper to build it myself than get a specialist vendor to build my system? To be honest I am very unlikely to build it myself, just because I know nothing about building computers, and I'd be really worried about not having a warranty for the computer as a whole. Having individual warranties on each different component sounds like a bit of a nightmare to me, especially when my computer breaks, and I don't know which component has gone wrong! Still, if it's seriously cheaper, I might give it a shot. There are some good online companies that seem to offer top of the range customizable systems, and I'll probs go with one of them, even though I know there will be a cost premium...

Thanks for any insight at all, much appreciated,

And as I said, if you have any advice at all, even if it's not directly related to my questions, please indulge me! At the end of the day, I just want a blazing fast system, that will be as future proof as possible, and I'm not quite sure how to allocate my budget amongst the different components... I just need some words of wisdom,

Thank you!

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  1. Welcome to the forums!!!!! =)

    1. I personally don't use SSD's but I heard that they are really fast, but really expensive as well, Maybe get one for your OS and a Western Digital Caviar Black 1tb for everything else.

    2. The gtx 295 DOES perform better than the 4870x2 but is it really worth the extra 100 dollars? I suggest you wait for the ATI 5xxx series.

    3. I cannot speak for everyone but when I upgraded from my PhenomII 940 to my i7 setup, HUGE performance gain in games for me, Probably from the triple channel memory. The 975 if you REALLY want it.. I mean, if you willing to spend that much money on a CPU then you must REALLY like it.. I sure do, wish I could afford it.. But otherwise not really, if you OC your i7 920 you should not be too far off from the extreme.

    4. 6gb is enough for now, 1800mhz would be pushing it since that would require you to OC them to reach that mhz. I believe "Most" people are running their rams at 1600. So that SHOULD be enough.

    5. Well besides stability when OC'ing, the only other thing I see that really makes a difference is brand and Slots. Some brands have lifetime warrenties and great service while others, not so much. Choose the right motherboard for your needs, I have a PCIe soundcard and like a bunch of other PCI stuff so I am going to be needing those slots so I had to make sure my motherboard could support all of it.

    6. Haha the custom cases are like that because I guess its what "most" people want nowadays. There are many cool ones ^^ I love my CM Storm Sniper case! Don't make fun of it! OR ELSE!

    7. It really depends, If you buy it from a vendor you would definitely feel much safer, if you have a friend to help you. EVEN better :). But where I live there is a local computer store that actually lets you pick the parts you want and builds the system for you for only like.. 70 - 100$ Cad more. Which is great compared to Alienware or Cyberpower who charge so much more for generic parts.

    Why not buy all your parts, bring it to a computer store and then pay them to build it for you? Much simpler and safer as-well. Good luck with your new PC!
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