Hi, I'm building a custom gaming PC. I've never done this before. I don't know how to tell good from bad in the case of RAM or motherboards. Can anyone help? Thanks.
(Note 1: I'm not looking for "buy product x" or "y is the best." I want to know how to tell that "y is the best."
Note 2: I haven't yet bought a CPU. Or anything else, I'm just planning.
Note 3: If it still matters my total budget is $1500, but I'm saving up so that's not really set in stone. I'll just save longer if need be.)
Motherboard makers try to distinguish their products with the feature sets: number and type of ports and connections available, BIOS options, etc. As far as reliability and stability, look at customer reviews. There are always going to be some faulty parts that ship out of the factory (and these might be a more vocal minority than the mostly satisfied customers) but there shouldn't be too many.
RAM has a simpler job: you'll just want to know whether it's compatible with your board and reliable. Select RAM in the amount and speed you want, then a good selection should "just work" to borrow a marketing phrase from Apple.
K1114 can you elaborate? How can I tell if the voltage will cause a problem?
Does MHz not matter for Ram?
The frequency of RAM will affect performance, but not to a degree that is obvious to the end user. As far as voltage, you just need to make sure it's within the rated RAM voltage for the CPU and board; for second/third generation Intel i-series chips ("Sandy Bridge" and "Ivy Bridge") the maximum supported RAM voltage is 1.5 V (DDR3).
SchizTech, if I understand you then this means no intel cpu can run 2400 MHz RAM. Since all intel cpus are ivory or sandy bridge (or just to old) and all 2400 MHz Ram uses 1.65 or more. Is that right? Why would anyone make 2400 MHz RAM if it can't be run on the expensive cpus and isn't cheap?
Anything above 1.5 just voids the warranty, it will still work perfectly fine. 2400mhz is also an overclocked speed and overclocking voids the warranty. Intel offers a oc warranty but voiding it isn't a big deal. If the cpu works it is unlikely it will ever have an issue. They also can't tell if you've overclocked unless the cpu died from it which is hard to do with the auto shut off.