The parts guide, or, "What's in my computer?"

What's in my computer?
Or, the basic guide to parts choices.

This is a guide aimed at the people just starting out - they're overwhelmed by the learning curve of building a computer, and are looking for general advice and information on what decisions are good and bad, as well as basic overview of what decisions they should be thinking about. This is (and will likely remain) a work in progress, so give recommendations, and it is to be accompanied by a sister post, "What do all those numbers mean?"

As has been brought up, this guide is purely subjective, built from users' years of experience - it doesn't use proof or benchmarks, and it will make claims that some users might object to. That's fine; it's here not as a definitive guide, but as something that new members would benefit from reading.

Without any further adu, starting on the outside of the computer and working our way inside:

The case: This is one of the first places you can decrease cost, but I personally would spend a bit more here ($100-120) to get a quality case. That's for a couple reasons. First, the case is probably going to be the longest-lasting parts of your computer; you can replace things and modify things inside your case as much as you want. Second, building a computer inside of a cheap-o case is seriously not fun; cable management is a pain, nothing fits together right, and then you end up with a noisy computer that rattles a lot.


The power supply: This is the most important part of a computer. It's another common place where people skimp to save money, but you ABSOLUTELY should not - a cheap power supply is much more likely to fail, and when it does, it can explode, set the computer on fire, or overvolt the motherboard and fry one or more parts. Finding a reliable power supply is not easy, as it relies not on brand, but on the actual manufacturer of the PSU; that's enough for a guide in-of-itself.


The motherboard: The motherboard is a pretty tricky thing, because not only do you have to make sure the socket (where the CPU goes) is the same as the socket your CPU fits, but then each socket has different chipsets. You want to do a little research, because the chipsets do matter. (For example, an Intel z77 and h77 chipset motherboard will both run fine with an i5-3570k, but the z77 supports overclocking that chip, while h77 does not.)

The other thing to keep in mind is that because most of the functions that used to belong to the motherboard are now on the CPU, there is a very definite upper limit to cost of a motherboard vs benefit. On a modern, mainstream intel chip, I recommend not spending above $160. For an AMD chip, it's a bit lower - about $130. The only time spending above this is a good idea is if you need a specific feature the motherboard has, or if you're going for an overclocking record using, say, liquid nitrogen.


The CPU: This is the part that actually does the processing, and is important... however, for a gaming computer, it's usually better to drop this down to afford the best graphics card possible, if on a tight budget. It should also be noted that there are very definite performance tiers when it comes to CPUs - for example, on a rig that will only be gaming, an i5-3570k will always be a better option than the $100 more expensive i7-3770k. Why? Because the only difference between the i5 and the i7 is that the i7 has hyperthreading - something that games don't use, and likely won't be able to take advantage of.

It should also be noted that there are big differences between processors - for example, an 8-core AMD 8350FX will actually be outperformed by a quad-core i5-3570k when gaming, though it will smash the i5 in heavily multithreaded performance, such as video editing. The reason for this comes partly from the architecture of the CPUs, and partially from the way AMD builds its bulldozer and piledriver processors. The architecture factors into play because each core of an i5 is much more efficient than that of a FX chip; that means that it gets more work done faster, core-for-core. The other factor is that the "8-core" AMD cpus aren't actually 8 cores. What they have are four "processing units," which consist of 2 integer schedulers and 1 fpu each. That means that for any data crunching, which required double-precision, the integer schedulers are used, and there are 8 of them, but for gaming, which uses single-precision, or "floating-point" calculations, it only can function as a quad core.


The graphics card: This is the second most important part of a gaming computer besides the power supply. It's what renders the scene of a game, calculates lighting and shadows, figures out physics from second-to-second, and generally determines what your gameplay is going to look like. The rule of thumb is to spend twice on the graphics card what you do on your processor, so an i5 for $200 would be paired with a $400 graphics card, but this rule is flexible.

Another thing to note is that graphics cards need to be researched in depth to not make a bad mistake; for example, the GTX 680, for $500, is one of the fastest graphics cards out there. However, it should never be bought. Why? Because the 680 is only 5% faster than a $400 GTX 670, while costing 25% more. (And both cards will render games on ultra at more than 60 fps... and once you get above the refresh rate of your monitor [usually 60Hz], it becomes useless to add more frames a second.)

Finally, I'll talk about naming conventions really quick. First up is Nvidia. Their naming convention, currently, is in the form of a three digit number. The first one up, in the 'hundreds' place, tells you what generation the graphics card is. The second number tells you it's place in that generation - the third is usually just a 0, because bigger numbers sound cooler. There will also be cards labeled with a "ti," or titanium edition. That means that they're a step above the normal card of that level, but not as fast as the card above it. The other thing to know, when comparing generations, is that a new card will be about as fast as a card two steps above it from the previous generation. (So to find the comparable card of a GTX 660ti, count two steps above it [660ti->670->680] and move back a generation [580].)

Naming conventions work in a similar manner for AMD, but with four digits. The first number tells you what generation the card is from, and the second two combined tell you how good it is within the tier - each step up in the 'hundreds' tier means a significant upgrade, whereas a step up in the 'tens' column means a lesser increase. Usually there are two models within each tier, -70 and -50; you will occasionally see -30, which almost always is a disabled -50, and will rarely see -90, which almost always means a dual-chip graphics card. The generational comparison functions in a similar manner to nvidias, but the 7k series of cards has two outliers: the 7870xt and the 7790. The first should really be called a 7930, and the second doesn't belong at all; it uses a different graphics chip than the cards around it, and is thought to actually be the 8750 or 8770, using a different name so that AMD can make the card as good as possible before re-releasing it under a different name.


Storage: There are two types of storage, SSDs and HDDs. HDDs, or hard drives, contain many magnetic, spinning platters upon which to store data. Their benefits are that they're large and fairly cheap - you can buy a terabyte of storage for about $80 usd. SSDs, or solid-state drives, have no moving parts. This gives them a LOT of benefits when compared to hard drives; they're roughly 10 times faster, they aren't damaged by sudden movement, they use less power and produce less heat... and they're smaller. However, they're also a lot more expensive, since the technology is fairly new still - buying a measly 128GB of data storage will cost about $128 usd. This is why most people buy a small (64-128GB) SSD upon which to put windows, applications, and a few games, while using a hard drive to store data and other games.

One thing that should be noted is that while the increased speed is WONDERFUL for windows, and lets you open programs nearly instantly, it's not that useful for most games - if you zone first in a multiplayer shooter, you still have to wait for everyone else to zone. The games that see the most benefit from being on an SSD are MMORPGs, because of their annoying, long, loading screens, and single-player games with noticeable loading screens which break immersion. (Half life 2 rather than skyrim, for example, since the loading screens in skyrim will be but a few seconds even on a normal HDD.)


Memory: Completely different from storage, RAM, or random-access memory, is what stores what the computer is working on right now. It's even faster, by a factor of about ten, than SSDs are, but it has one huge downside: it only works while it's got current running through it. That means that if you tried to use it to save a word document on, it wouldn't be there the next time you turned on your computer. RAM is plentiful and fairly cheap - you can buy 8GB of it (enough to simultaneously run battlefield 3, photoshop, and 30 tabs in chrome) for about $50-60 usd. One thing to keep in mind is that the shiny heatsink with all the tall fins? Doesn't matter - most RAM doesn't produce enough heat to need any sort of heatsink whatsoever, and thus it's only useful for getting in the way of other things, like cabling, coolers, or your fingers. This is why you should buy "low-profile" ram; ram that doesn't have a heatsink that's taller than the ram stick itself.


The Optical Drive: This is what reads CDs, DVDs, and if you're old-fashioned, floppy disks. Some people will spend a lot of money buying a blu-ray reader for their computer, but most of us know better and don't watch blu-rays very often. One thing to keep in mind is that because Windows is easily installed from a USB stick these days, optical drives are becoming more and more a thing of the past. Unless you have a specific use for an optical drive, most computers don't need one, or can have a single external optical drive shared between the entire group.


Now on to the more specialty items:

Cooling: If you're going to be overclocking at all, or if you just want a cooler, quieter computer, then an aftermarket CPU cooler is a good idea. What a CPU cooler does is takes the heat from your processor and dissipates it in the air. Usually these don't have to be very expensive - a $30 Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is a common recommendation for a cooler, and will all but the worst overclocks. Another option is watercooling, which comes in two parts: closed-loop watercoolers, and home-built watercoolers. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, detailed in the watercooling sticky, but in short, closed-loop watercoolers are cheaper and smaller, require no maintenance and are easier to install. Home-built watercoolers are more expensive, typically are larger, and require bi-annual maintenance, but cool much better, can be expanded to cool whatever else needs it, and are much, much easier to repair if something breaks.


Sound Cards: If you've got room, and money to burn, then a sound card is a great option. Starting at about $50 and up, a sound card will produce much better quality sound than the onboard sound from your motherboard. That being said, they're pretty rare, because most people are happy with onboard sound, and if you buy a nice sound card, it's wasted unless the entire sound system matches it. (A sound card is pointless if you're listening to it with cheap computer speakers or earbugs.)
28 answers Last reply
More about parts guide computer
  1. Monitors: (Many thanks to Manofchalk for his wonderfully detailed contribution! It was too long to fit here, but the information has been condensed for your benefit. Perhaps if he posts his writeup, this will all change to a link to that. ;) )
    The monitor, is, obviously, the display of the computer. Choosing a monitor comes down to what the computer will be used for, and what budget you have. The first choice you have when picking a monitor comes down to what type of monitor you want. There are two common types of monitors out there: TN and IPS. TN panels are the most common, and the cheapest - they have good response times (meaning low ghosting and imput lag when gaming), but pretty poor color and bad viewing angles. (Viewing angle is important for a three-monitor setup.) IPS panels are more expensive, and have superior color reproduction, but poor refresh rates make them more suited for professional use, where color accuracy is highly important.

    There are a number of other types of panels, but they're rarely found. (Keep an eye on PLS and OLED displays, however - both promise to give extreme color accuracy along with low response time and a number of other goodies.) Most gamers are going to want a TN panel. That means they have a few things to consider: Refresh Rate, Resolution, and Response Times. The refresh rate of a panel is how many times a panel can change to a different image, measured in Hz. The benefit you gain from a higher refresh rate is difficult to explain, but it leads to everything feeling smoother, and is noticeably better. TN panels are usually either 60Hz or 120Hz. (Asus makes 144Hz panels, but the difference between 120Hz and 144Hz isn't really worth it.) [Also, just as a note, most 120Hz TVs aren't actually 120Hz - they use something called interpolation.]

    The resolution of a monitor is pretty important. The higher the resolution, the better the image looks (and the difference is HUGE for even small upgrades)... but it also makes that image harder for the graphics card to render. TVs are usually 1280×720, whereas the standard for a gaming monitor is 1920x1080. Finally, we have the response time. This is where a LOT of people get confused. This is the time it takes for a movement of, say, your mouse, to register on the screen. It's measured in miliseconds, but there are two types of measurement: black-to-white, and grey-to-grey. Obviously it's easier for a pixel to change from one shade of grey to another and back, so manufacturers often use the G2G number, as it's lower and more impressive. For gaming, you want a monitor that's 5ms or less black-to-white, or 2ms or less grey-to-grey.


    Keyboards: There are three types of keyboards: Membrane, "Gaming," and Mechanical. Membrane keyboards are usually about $20, and they get the job done. If you're on a budget, these are what to get. Most ergonomic keyboards, including my favorite budget keyboard, the Comfort Curve 2000, are membrane. In the $60 range, you're going to see a lot of keyboards targeted at gamers. Usually they light up, and often have 'macro keys' along the sides. These keyboards are an absolute waste of money. They use the same technology as membrane keyboards, which means they can't register more than two key presses at once. That means that you're basically paying $40 for lights when you're going to be looking at the screen, not the keyboard, and for macro keys. (Here's a hint: AutoHotkey will turn your numberpad into more macro keys than most of these keyboards have.)

    Finally, we have mechanical keyboards. There's enough on them to write an article by itself, but suffice it to say they're the end-all-be-all. If you can afford a mechanical keyboard (which can run anywhere from $70 to $150 [The lower end boards *cough cough razor cough cough* tend to not be built as well]), you will be happy. They have a much better 'feel' than membrane keyboards, you can press down the entire board and all the keys will register, and they're built like tanks. Seriously, they're amazing... it's like typing on a cloud of boobs.


    Mice: Mice are an interesting one. If they were still made, I'd tell you to go buy an Intellimouse Explorer 3.0 and be done with it. (Seriously, they were the best gaming mice ever made... used ones still sell for $70. [As I cackle, sitting on an opened, but never used, one, with my old and beaten up one in a place of honor.] ) Anyways, finding a good gaming mouse is NOT easy. When I was looking for a replacement for my old Intellimouse, I went through about seven mice before I found one I liked.

    There are all sorts of theories about how people hold their mice, ect... but it really boils down to personal preference. For example, the Logitech G9x is one of the most popular mice around right now, but using it for 20 minutes makes my hands begin to cramp. If it's at all possible, if you have a mouse you're interested in, try it in a store before buying it online. For gaming, I recommend a 5-button mouse; enough to give you a lot of utility, but not so much that you can't hit the button you're aiming for. (Looking at you, Naga.)

    I personally use a Razor Deathadder Black Edition... and like it so much that I have two more sitting in boxes for when this one dies. Just one note about Razor products, though. I've used a fair number of them in my days, and the only one that's been of sufficient build quality to last a reasonable amount of time has been this one - they stuck true to the "black edition" ideal when it comes to computer parts. This mouse takes WAY more punishment than a normal Deathadder can.


    Case Lighting: Back in the old days, people used cold cathodes to light a case - these were glass tubes, filled with gas that would glow when an electric current was passed through it. They're a royal pain in the rear end, however, because they break easily and require an ugly, delicate inverter to power them. Next, people turned to LED fans. Trouble with that is that they can be pretty ugly sometimes, and don't work as well as good quality fans.

    So now there are three bloody amazing products on the market: Bitfenix Alchemy Strips, Logisis Sunlight Sticks, and the NZXT Hue system. All three of them are very good products, and have their own uses - the Alchemy Strips can be cut to size and just stick on wherever you want - they're plastic tape with LEDs in it, basically. The NZXT Hue system is similar, but a bit clunkier... the trade off is that you get a remote control with which you can change the lighting to whatever you want. The Sunlight Sticks are really only useful for the white lighting, because they're the brightest case lighting I've ever seen. If you want to flood your case with light to show off your parts, these things are AWESOME. (They come with an awful mounting system, though - I use velcro stickies.) The only exception to these three items are if you want UV light - for that you still need a good old cathode tube, as no UV led gets the brightness or spectrum the cathodes do. (Many low-end "UV" leds are just purple.)


    Fans There are a few things to know about fans. Just because you can feel the airflow from farther away does not mean the fan is more powerful. There are two basic types of fans - high static pressure, and high airflow. High static pressure fans move the air in a column, which is why you can feel it from farther away. They're great for forcing air through tight spaces, like a radiator or heatsink, but not so good as case intake. Because the air doesn't spread out, it leaves pockets of 'dead air' in your case, which isn't good. High airflow fans don't worry about concentrating air, and just pay attention to moving a lot of it. This makes them ideal for case intake fans, because it will get cool air to the entirety of your case. (The best way to do that is to have a slight positive pressure - that is, slightly more intake than output. This not only ensures the case stays filled with cool air, but it keeps dust from getting in the cracks in your case.) As a note, the output fans can be of either type, as the only thing that matters is how much air it draws IN.


    Speakers/Headphones: This is a pretty complicated subject. As for speakers, it really depends on how much of an audiophile you are. If I didn't have space restrictions, for example, I would blow $800 for a sound card, receiver, and stereo speakers in a heartbeat, because I listen to a LOT of music. If you don't, however, or are just using the built-in sound on your motherboard, then computer speakers will do just fine.

    Headphones are more complicated. Most of the time, you can get away with onboard audio if you're using cheap headphones. (For gaming, but not sound quality, I love Tech'N'Motion's $20 headset. Just be warned that the in-line transistor comes unsoldered really easily if you fiddle with your wires like I do.) If you're going with more expensive headphones, you're going to want a headphone amplifier - either one built into a sound card, or an external one. One of the best options, if you can afford it, is to buy audiophile headphones, a clip-on microphone, and a amp of some sort. (I recommend Astro's 2013 Mixamp - it's bloody impressive.) If you don't listen to music as much, then an amp and gaming headset is probably the way to go - the Astro A40s are great ones that come bundled with the mixamp.


    Other stuff: (Thanks to g-unit1111 for the advice!)
    Tool kits: You only need a philips head screwdriver - though it's nice to have one with a shorter handle if you can find it.
    Cables: No need to buy extras - you'll have everything you need.
    Cable Ties: You'll get some with either your case, motherboard, or power supply. (Though nicer ones are an option if they're cheap.)
    Fan Controllers: Only really useful if you're watercooling; most high-end cases have them built in.
    Sound Dampening Foam: Don't bother. If you care about noise, you're buying a case that focuses on it.
    Surge Protectors: Yes, you should have one... but it'll be no more than $20 at a hardware store.
    Thermal Compound: If you're buying a decent aftermarket heatsink, it'll come with good stuff already.
  2. Definitely not a bad guide at all. I'd go a step further and say that when planning a PC's budget do not include extra parts or things you don't need in them. Concentrate on the tower and what's inside of it. Most of the time these things are wastes of money and things you don't need anyways. This includes:

    - Tool kits: All you need is a screwdriver
    - Cables: Every cable you need is included with one part or another
    - Cable ties: These are included with your power supply. You do not need to buy more than what's included.
    - Fancy LED lights: You can do without these
    - Fan controllers: Any good modern case above $100 or more will have one built in, any below this is unnecessary
    - Foam Dampening System: WTF is this? This is another thing you can easily do without.
    - Surge protectors: Just buy a $12 surge bar from Home Depot. If you need anything more than that consider an Uninterruptable Power Supply.
    - Thermal compound: A complete waste of money if you're purchasing any decent CPU cooler.
    - Speakers less than $50: Don't buy junk speakers. They're worthless. The speakers built into your monitor are better than what you plan to buy. If you want a good set, save your money and buy a good set. Anything below $50 and you're just throwing money away on speakers with the quality of tin cans.
  3. g-unit1111 said:
    Definitely not a bad guide at all. I'd go a step further and say that when planning a PC's budget do not include extra parts or things you don't need in them. Concentrate on the tower and what's inside of it. Most of the time these things are wastes of money and things you don't need anyways. This includes:

    - Tool kits: All you need is a screwdriver
    - Cables: Every cable you need is included with one part or another
    - Cable ties: These are included with your power supply. You do not need to buy more than what's included.
    - Fancy LED lights: You can do without these
    - Fan controllers: Any good modern case above $100 or more will have one built in, any below this is unnecessary
    - Foam Dampening System: WTF is this? This is another thing you can easily do without.
    - Surge protectors: Just buy a $12 surge bar from Home Depot. If you need anything more than that consider an Uninterruptable Power Supply.
    - Thermal compound: A complete waste of money if you're purchasing any decent CPU cooler.
    - Speakers less than $50: Don't buy junk speakers. They're worthless. The speakers built into your monitor are better than what you plan to buy. If you want a good set, save your money and buy a good set. Anything below $50 and you're just throwing money away on speakers with the quality of tin cans.


    Very good points - I'll throw them in with the peripherals section.
  4. Check your PM's DarkSable.
  5. Awesome guide sir! Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed guide! I learned a lot already! Looking forward to the rest!
  6. Scott Mueller should be quoting you. He uses 20+ pages in the 21st edition on building your own and didn't include a lot of what you did and did it with half the comprehensibility you did, thank you!
  7. hasky620 said:
    Scott Mueller should be quoting you. He uses 20+ pages in the 21st edition on building your own and didn't include a lot of what you did and did it with half the comprehensibility you did, thank you!


    Wow, thank you!
    Hopefully the distractions (read: actual work) will stop bothering me and I can do an update by this afternoon.
  8. I've always wanted someone to actually make a guide similar to mine, and maintain it :) There have been a few attempts over the years but they were never maintained or got too ambitious.

    I'll be happy to include it in the master sticky when done.
  9. Proximon said:
    I've always wanted someone to actually make a guide similar to mine, and maintain it :) There have been a few attempts over the years but they were never maintained or got too ambitious.

    I'll be happy to include it in the master sticky when done.


    I'm not treading on your toes, am I, Prox? I didn't realize that there was already something like this.
  10. No, I meant exactly what I said. We actually had a wealth of guides at one point. Other parts guides, lists of parts, lists of builds... they all just eventually became outdated and mine is the only current one.

    Let me see what I might dig up.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/229705-31-sanji-guide-computer-parts-builds
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/269162-31-recommended-builds-usage

    And much like yours and mine
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/288311-31-homebuilt-buying-guide

    See how parts lists are too ambitious? I used to have one as well.

    People get involved in a lot of build threads, and it starts to make sense to them to write a guide or parts list. It's a good idea when you are taking on 20 new build posts a day... but eventually you get burned out and then the list gets old and is no longer updated.
  11. Very good. I like the way you explain things rather than just state them without proof. It's quite professional.
  12. Proximon said:
    No, I meant exactly what I said. We actually had a wealth of guides at one point. Other parts guides, lists of parts, lists of builds... they all just eventually became outdated and mine is the only current one.

    People get involved in a lot of build threads, and it starts to make sense to them to write a guide or parts list. It's a good idea when you are taking on 20 new build posts a day... but eventually you get burned out and then the list gets old and is no longer updated.


    I gotcha. I'm hoping to keep these things pretty well updated; eventually I hope to have this guide, one explaining numbers and naming conventions, and one with recommended builds for price points / uses. I'm somewhat insane, though, so I'm hoping I can keep a handle on things. :P
  13. FinneousPJ said:
    Very good. I like the way you explain things rather than just state them without proof. It's quite professional.


    I already said that these are all coming from many years of experience with computers, and that this is a guide to the basics, not an in-depth guide. Those can be found in many places, but are often overwhelming for someone new to computers.

    I'm just trying to soften the learning curve at the very bottom end of things - they aren't going to want proof and benchmarks yet, they're going to want advice, plain and simple.
  14. Eh, why are you defensive. I said I like it and that you do offer sufficient proof.
  15. FinneousPJ said:
    Eh, why are you defensive. I said I like it and that you do offer sufficient proof.


    Ah... I apologize. I took your post backwards, thinking you were saying I was claiming things without sufficient proof. (Which I am, in a way; I should be using backups and outside sources, but I stated this is a subjective guide, so I think I'll be okay.)
  16. Here's my critique. It's kind of long.


    General:
    1. DEFINITIONS! The target audience will not follow half the things on your post. Especially the "bulldozer" and "piledriver" CPU part. I would think you're talking about some construction work. AMD builds a bulldozer and a piledriver processor. LOL.
    2. Some definitions on the acronyms would be useful. Don't just throw in CPU and not mention what it stands for. It's also best to not use acronyms before they are defined, such as CPU in the motherboard category.
    3. Inconsistent headings. The first four started each part with "The". Yet it doesn't follow the rest. And since it's possible to SLI and CrossFire, there's no "the graphics card".

    PSU:
    1. I would at least mention the recommended manufacturers: Corsair, PC Power & Cooling, Seasonic, and XFX.
    2. Also would be nice to give a brief scale on what W is required. Not too hard as the GPUs are the ones affecting it mostly.

    Case:
    1. It would be useful to mention that a case is a personal preference. There is no right or wrong case as long as it fits all your parts and does what you need it to do.

    Motherboard:
    1. Would be useful to mention that only P and Z chipsets can be overclocked.
    2. Useful to mention what overclock means.

    CPU:
    1. Replace the first ellipsis with a period and capitalize "however".
    2. Remove the ", if on a tight budget" on the second sentence, or first if you didn't do #1.
    3. There are actually a few games that use hyper-threading, so it's incorrect to say that it's something that games don't use.
    4. "It should also be noted that there are big differences between processors - for example, an 8-core AMD 8350FX will actually be outperformed by a quad-core i5-3570k when gaming, though it will smash the i5 in heavily multithreaded performance, such as video editing." -- That doesn't state the big differences. Nitpicking on semantics, you would either want octa-core to match the quad-core or 8-core and 4-core. It's not a good idea to use passive actions. So instead of "actually be outperformed by", it's probably best to say "lose to". And replace "though" with "but". And "applications" instead of "performance". Just makes the sentence read a lot easier.
    5. A random "FX chip" thrown in.
    6. I think this entire section needs to be dumbed down. Too many technical terms. It starts out well, but then it really got technical and most people who don't know what a CPU is, will just be mindf***ed. Like they really care about the last 4 sentences. I would stick to explaining what it is and move on. It's good to give a brief recommendation of CPU for different builds like:

    Recommended CPU by category
    Gaming: Intel Core i5-3570K (overclock), Intel Core i5-3470 or Intel Core i5-3350P (non-overclock)
    Heavy video/audio editing: Intel i7-3770K
    etc

    Just keep it simple and straight forward. Visually easy to read. No essays. Don't blab on and on.

    GPU:
    1. GPUs aren't only useful for gaming. Try multi-monitor setup. And no, I don't mean a multi-monitor setup just to play games.
    2. Intended audience won't know what "outliers" is. Heck, I didn't even know that that meant in context until I read the next 2 sentences.
    3. Replace the only set of ellipsis in this paragraph with a period and captialize the following word.

    Storage:
    1. HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive, not Hard Drive.
    2. Don't stress "LOT". Either say "a lot" or "A LOT".
    3. Replace the semi-colon at the end of same sentence as #2 with a period. Replace the following "They're" with SSDs are". And remove the "they" in subsequent listing and ending with "produce less heat, and are smaller."
    4. Following sentence: remove the comma and the word "still". And "128GB size SSD", not "128GB of data storage". Nitpicking again, but 128GB of data storage is a bit misleading. USD, not usd.
    5. Not "which to put windows" but rather "which to put the operating system". Not everyone uses Windows, so keep that in mind and fix the other instances.
    6. Period after "and lets you open programs nearly instantly"
    7. What does "zone first" mean?

    RAM:
    1. RAM is storage. So I don't know why you said it is completely different from storage. o.O It's storage for temporary data from running applications. Cards like the GPU also use RAM.
    2. "it only works while it's got current running through it" --- current? As in electrical current? Well no duh! Nothing works without that.
    3. You can't save a word document into RAM. A good example to show that RAM isn't storage like HDD and SSD, but a better one may be "data in an unsaved word document is stored in RAM, hence why you lose all its data if the power went out".
    4. "the shiny heatsink with all the tall fins" --- what? I suggest you save this for the cooling section. Has nothing to do with RAM whatsoever.

    Optical Drive:
    1. Don't forget Blu-Ray. No; it's not the same as a DVD.
    2. OS > Windows. Windows isn't the only OS capable of being installed via a flash drive.
    3. While most computers don't need an optical drive, it doesn't hurt to have one. I wouldn't voiced bias in describing what it is. Sounds more like a "you don't need it so why buy it" kind of thing. Just describe it and leave it as is.

    Cooling:
    1. Replace "at all".
    2. Remove "quieter computer". CPU Coolers don't make a computer quieter. Unless the heat decides to make noise by cracking your case.
    3. "and will all but the worst overclocks" -- incomplete thought. And will all what?
    4. Water cooling. Two words. Same for water coolers.
    5. It should be mentioned that CLC are not true water coolers as they do not use water, rather a coolant.
    6. "more effective cooler" instead of "cool much better".
    7. Expanded to cool GPU. What else is there? I wouldn't use it to cool my hard drives or the motherboard. haha
  17. ksham said:
    Here's my critique. It's kind of long.
    [snip]lots of wonderful stuff[/snip]


    Awesome, thanks ksham! Next time I have a little free time, I'll get around to working on this; pretty much everything you're saying is very good advice.
  18. Is there a comparable guide out there for the building of workstations?
  19. I don't believe so; ask Proximon.
    If there isn't, after I'm done with this trio of guides, I'll do some research and put something together for you.
  20. DarkSable said:
    I don't believe so; ask Proximon.
    If there isn't, after I'm done with this trio of guides, I'll do some research and put something together for you.


    That would be fantastic! Thank you!
  21. A workstation can mean many different things, and require a broad range of parts. It's possible to write a general workstation guide, but it all boils down to a few key points.

    1. You have to know exactly what software will be used.
    2. You need to know how well threaded the applications in question are.
    3. You need to know if the applications in question will benefit by offloading computations to the GPU.
    4. You need to know if any of the applications will benefit from a professional workstation GPU.

    So, a really good workstation guide will actually address ALL those applications... 3DMax, Photoshop, AutoCAD, Maya, Blender, Vegas Pro.... the list goes on and on.

    Probably best to make a spreadsheet of all possible workstation applications. From that, you could then plug in the data that we ask for in each new build post:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/353572-31-build-upgrade-advice

    Invariably when I respond to a workstation build request, I have to google all that data... once I drag out of the OP what software will be used.

    In general terms, 3D design work of any sort will benefit from a workstation GPU, and almost no other use benefits enough to justify the cost.
  22. DarkSable said:
    Monitors: (Many thanks to Manofchalk for his wonderfully detailed contribution! It was too long to fit here, but the information has been condensed for your benefit. Perhaps if he posts his writeup, this will all change to a link to that. ;)


    Hmmm....
    I can take a hint when I see one.
    Will be up soon, check your PM's Darksable.

    Critique on the new sections.

    Keyboards:
    Gaming grade keyboards aren't necessarily horrible. There are a few very good membrane gaming keyboards like the Sidewinder X4.
    But anyway, main issue is that a lot of your own personal opinion is in there.
    ... I know where that line came from....

    Mice:
    Most of this is again personal opinion or experience, or talking about a mouse that is no longer available.
    Explain some of these hand-grip theories. Claw and Palm grip at least, though Hybrid and Fingertip are worth explaining.

    Case Lighting:
    Problem with recommending individual products is that they will eventually go out of production. Hopefully, this guide will outlast the products, so the information becomes useless as time goes on.

    Fans and Speaker/Headphones is good.

    Other stuff:
    Would tack on Uninterruptable Power Supplies to the end of that.
  23. Sexy. I'll be doing another update either tonight or tomorrow morning. :)
  24. My monitor guide has just been sticked :ouch:
    *indescribable noises of glee*
  25. Nice! Congratulations @manofchalk.
  26. Congradulations!

    Sorry that I've been dissapeared, guys - finals are hammering me. Two more weeks and I get to start actually finishing the trilogy of guides.
  27. One thing I would suggest in terms of the CPU: The Xeon. You do not need to purchase one for any desktop or gaming build unless you're using scalable applications or running a server environment. For the most part you won't be, the i5 or i7 are enough for most uses.
Ask a new question

Read More

Computers Systems