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New homebuilder daunted by learning curve

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  • Systems
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Last response: in Systems
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December 18, 2012 6:26:19 PM

Proper levels of power supplies, correct RAM, the right CPU and GPU combination - holy cow - the variable are maddening! And the numerical naming conventions of Intel, AMD, ATI and nVidia seem designed to confuse.

Is there a simple guide somewhere to explain the hierarchy of CPUs, GPUs, etc? I find it very hard to tell if X graphic card will give me more FPS than Y graphic card because the naming conventions for ATI and nVidia confound me. And even Intel confuses me - when is a high end i5 better than a low end i7? Why are they all listed as 'Sandy Bridge'?

Are there websites with a simple step ladder showing most to least powerful products? Anything :) 

As a new home builder I have to say - the learning curve seems daunting.

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December 18, 2012 6:42:18 PM

Massively helpful - tyvm
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December 18, 2012 6:46:09 PM

First, calm down and take a deep, cleansing breath.

All the people on the forms started exactly where you are. I am an Air Force Engineer and I was a mess when I put my first system together. I can remember screaming, “Its Alive!” when it booted to bios the first time… actually I still do…

First decision is how much do I want to spend?

Second, watch the vids that FinneousPJ was kind enough to link.

Lastly, go to Tom’s Hardware home page and look up the last quarterly system builds. Pick the computer that is closest to your price range ($500, $1000 and $2000 options). Make any changes necessary and if you have a question, ask. We all have opinions and are very happy to share them.
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December 18, 2012 7:00:41 PM

Hi Mashugana - Tom's is here for you! The community here can answer most every question you might have about building your optimal system for your needs and budget. The "Best CPUs/GPUs for the Money" articles that FinneousPJ linked are excellent resources. The hierarchy charts at the end are incredibly helpful for quick reference.

We also have a template you can fill out (again courtesy of FinneousPJ) that will help forum members to post suggestion builds that will give you examples to help you learn what you need to know. If you like, fill out the following template (be detailed about your computer usage and budget) and people will be able to give you examples of optimized systems for your needs and budget: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/353572-31-build-upgra...

Feel free to question anyone on why they suggested a particular component over something else. Aside from reading articles and getting your hands dirty, that's a great way to learn and will help prevent you from making mistakes. Anyway, good luck, we look forward to helping you! : )
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December 18, 2012 7:19:32 PM

Just throwing out there - the learning curve is HUGE... for buying parts.

Once you understand how the parts work in relation to each other, and how they name parts (older generations of video cards in relation to newer ones still confuse me), it becomes much, much easier.

The actual building of a computer though? Bloody easy. Think Legos for adults, but you get youtube videos walking you through exactly what to do!


That being said, the hardest part isn't going to be figuring out what parts do what, or how the parts fit together... it's what parts aren't going to be a waste of money. For example:

An ivy bridge (the successor architecture to sandy bridge) i5 is not only going to be better in many situations than a sandy bridge i7, but it's better for gaming than an ivy bridge i7, because the i7 is the same as an i5, but with hyperthreading. That means that spending the extra $100 on an i7 is a waste of money for basically any gamer, because it doesn't give any benefit.

Here's a rough outline of what the ideal gaming PC is - you can get better parts, but spending $600 more for a 10% benefit doesn't work with most gamers.

i5-3570k (The best of the ivy bridge i5's, and the current best gaming chip.)

An aftermarket heatsink if you're overclocking. (But not a water cooling heatsink unless it's a real one.)

8 GB of 1600MHz ram. (There's NO point to getting more ram, and intel doesn't see hardly any benefit from faster ram than this.)

A quality 550w power supply. (The important thing here is quality - a good PSU will put out 550w forever, where as a bad PSU might be rated for 1050w, and never give more than 600w.) [550w is also plenty for basically any modern system, or 750w if you want two graphics cards in the future.]

A case of your choosing. This is entirely personal, but a lot of us spend about $100 on this. More doesn't really see much benefit, and while less gets better budget cases, a $40 case isn't going to have as much thought put into airflow, it's not going to be as quiet, and it's more likely to have machining errors.

A reliable 128GB SSD for windows and often used programs, and a 1TB drive for data and game storage.

A graphics card of your choosing. Those of us who can afford it go with a 7970 or 670 - the more expensive cards give very little real-world benefit. (The 690, for example, does worse with three monitors than two of the right kind of 670s do.)
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