Questions about Gaming Systems

I am doing a research project for my class and have gotten permission to ask people for their input. My topic is on building a gaming system which includes the thought process and parts that go into making one. Anyone is welcome to reply and put their input in as it would be very helpful.

Theoretically I am building a gamming computer that can also be to create animation shows. The following are questions that I would like to have answered.
1. What is the first thing that I should think about before looking for parts for the computers?

2. What are the major components for a gaming system and what part do you look for first?

3. What are currently the best brands for building a gaming system and why? (This is matter of opinion)

4. If I had $1500 to spend on buying parts for a gaming system where would I begin? (Or what would I possibly buy?)

Thank you all for taking the time to look at this and for any and all replys.
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More about questions gaming systems
  1. 1) The first thing to consider is your budget and what you hope to achieve from your system. You must consider the system in its entirety.

    2) The first part to consider is the Case. Will it hold everything you need? Will it provide adequate cooling? Is it capable of future expansion like more HDD's? The next is the PSU. Will it provide sufficent stable power? Then there is the CPU RAM and Motherboard to be considered. One normally considers those as a package. The HDD is important in terms of capacity and speed of data delivery. Then of course there is the GPU. The most powerful one can afford is how this is considered by most of us.

    3) In my opinion Intel, NVIDIA, ASUS and Gigabyte are good quality. Corsair for PSU. Kingston or OCZ for RAM.

    4) You buy the best you can for your money. The best bang for buck is the Lynnfield i5 with 4 GB RAM, Win 7 64 bit, and at least a GTX 260. HDD of choice is the Velicoraptor.
  2. 1.) Usage and budget. What your using the build for will drastically alter what types of parts you should be looking at. The budget also helps narrow that down.

    2.) Every part plays a role. Generally, you'd think of looking at the CPU or GPU first, but without a great motherboard or PSU, they won't work right. Even the case makes a difference, as if it doesn't have enough airflow, it will hinder performance. However, you typically start by looking at the GPU (video card) for gaming systems. Most games are bottlenecked by the GPU, so the bigger they are, the better they'll perform. After that, it's the CPU in terms of performance. The CPU comes first in builds that are used for more "work" related tasks like rendering and encoding.

    3.) It depends on the part. For CPUs, there's only two options (AMD or Intel), and that's entirely budget driven. AMD is better for lower end builds and future proofing options. Intel is more expensive, but offers more performance. In addition, right now, Intel is considered a bad option because they're about to release new sockets (the motherboards that new CPUs will work with). What this means is that any current Intel CPU is the most powerful you'll be able to buy. On the other hand, AMD is going to keep using their AM3 socket for the next series of CPUs, which means there will be an upgrade path.

    GPUs basically come in two flavors: ATI and nVidia. There are numerous manufacturers but they make little difference. Which brand is better depends a lot on usage. ATI wins in terms of price to performance for strictly gaming. nVidia dominates when other uses come into play (encoding, rendering, etc.), but doesn't offer as good as value. Another consideration here is if you want to add a second GPU in Crossfire (ATI) or SLI (nVidia). AMD CPUs don't do SLI, so if you want this feature, you're stuck with ATI. Also, nVidia's high end cards currently require huge amounts of power (the GTX 470 needs 850W to do SLI, the 480 needs a 1000W unit). ATI's highest end card (the HD 5970) would only need 850W for Crossfire, and that's technically using 4 GPUs together.

    Motherboards: Asus and Gigabyte. After them, ASRock and MSI are good quality on a budget, but not as high quality as Asus and Gigabyte.

    RAM: G.Skill. Not really an opinion, as they're the best for overclocking and value. Basically, any sticks are good, with the exception of OCZ ones. OCZ's sticks require abnormally large amounts of voltage to run (usually 1.7V). Most boards prefer to have sticks that use less than 1.65V. Intel CPUs and chipsets are especially fickle in this regard, so OCZ is often not considered an option.

    HDD: Samsung (specifically, their Spinpoint F3/F4 series drives). They're some of the cheapest, highest quality and fastest drives out there. There are a few things to avoid here too. First, high RPM (i.e. 10,000 RPM) drives like the VelociRaptors. They're expensive, usually three times as much as standard drives that are larger. The problem is that these high speed drives aren't really high speed. What really matters to HDD speed is the size of the platter. The platter is the physical disk where data is stored. Size is referred to in GB. Currently, the largest platter is 500 GB, which can be found in the Samsung Spinpoint F3 500 GB and 1 TB, Western Digital Caviar Black (SATA III drives only) and Seagate 7200.12 500 GB and 1 TB. These drives are actually as fast (or faster) than the VelociRaptors at a fraction of the cost. The other thing to avoid is the SATA III (6 GBps) drives. They're generally more expensive, yet don't offer much in terms of a performance bump.

    SSD: This is an offshoot of the HDDs. They're essentially HDDs with no moving parts. They're amazingly fast, but incredible expensive for their size. While a 500 GB HDD can be found for around $50-60, an 80 GB SSD will easily cost $200. The best ones right now are generally OCZ's Agility 2 and Vertex 2 series drives. G.Skill's SSDs are also excellent as well.

    Cases: Antec, Coolermaster and Lian Li dominate in terms of price to performance. Specifically, you can't really beat the Coolermaster HAF 922. All are pretty large and loaded with features. They're also fairly priced and high quality.

    PSU: Corsair, SeaSonic, Silverstone, Antec and XFX. Anything else isn't as high in terms of quality or efficiency.

    Optical drive: It literally doesn't matter. The absolute cheapest would be the best.

    4.) Here's what I'd build at around that budget:

    CPU: i7-930 or i7-950
    Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R
    RAM: G.Skill Pi Series 3x2 GB DDR3 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7
    GPU: HD 5970
    HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB
    Case: HAF 922
    PSU: Corsair 850TX 850W
    Optical: Whatever's cheap
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