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Need expert advice on buying/building a computer

post #1 of 109
Thread Starter 
Hello. It's been nearly five years since I had a new computer. I was planning on buying from dell, but I realized it'd be much better to build one. Thing is, I have no experience. My computer knowledge is limited to replacing drives and adding plug-and-play components. I only understand the basics when it comes to hardware.The specifics i.e. bus speeds, ram types, chips, motherboards, etc, you know, the whole shebang eludes me.

I want to build a media/gaming rig for at most $1700 total. This includes monitor and tax/shipping. I've never really been a pc gamer or anything, but I thought since I'm getting a new computer, why not. Doesn't need to be maxed out, since I can't afford it. Good visuals for dvds/music videos/ etc is vital. My minimum reqs. are:

1 gig of ram
200 gig HDD 7200rpm
Mid/upper-end video card (nvidia or ati, I assume)
Fast processor, intel or amd
Windows XP OS, possibly MCE
versatile CD/DVD burner, single drive is fine
17-19" CRT/LCD, mainly for video and gaming use
A case (ATX?)
Ethernet port
maybe a TV tuner (HDTV would be nice)
. . . and all that other computer hardware/software I know nothing of and have left out

I need some component recommendations, so please bear with me. Higher-end end stuff (more ram, bigger HDD,etc) is fine as long as it doesn't breakthe $1700 bank. (Which I know isn't a lot in the PC world)

Also, is it difficult building a PC? I've read a lot of sites, and they all say it's fairly doable, as long as you have at least some computer knowledge. Would be it better to buy components say in the spring?

I'm open to any and all advice. (I've done a search and well, but I need rec. pertaining to my needs)

If you need any more specifics form my part, let me know. Thanks.
post #2 of 109
Anything specific you're looking for in the case? ie: neon lights, side window, led fans, toaster oven...etc?
post #3 of 109
Thread Starter 
Uh . . . don't know. Don't need anything fancy. I just want something that's versatile and easily upgradeable. I *know* I won't be making toast.
post #4 of 109
$1700 with a monitor and good performance will be challenging. I have to finish my Christmas shopping in a few minutes, but I'll configure something when I get home.
post #5 of 109
head over to newegg.com. they currently have a combo package of a AMD 64 3400+, Abit/MSI mobo, and 512MB of ram for around $500. that should geet you started.
post #6 of 109
Thread Starter 
Aurora, it doesn't have to a great gaming rig, I honestly don't plan on playing games compared to say those that are hardcore. I just want the option to play some of the new stuff when it comes out. Don't need the highest fps or resolutions for gaming. It's primarily a media rig I think. I'm coming from a 63mb 30gig PIII 533mhz desktop and 256mb 30gig P4 1.5ghz laptop (that died). I really appreciate you helping me though.

Fr4c, I know very little about amd processors and mobos and stuff.
post #7 of 109
AMD processors offers the same level of performance for a cheaper price. the new AMD 64 processors are capable of processing 64-bit softwares when they come out, like the Apple G5 processors. Other than that, its pretty much the same thing as an Intel.

so heres pretty much what i would do with 1700 bucks:

Antec case
AMD 64 3400+ Processor
Abit Mobo
2x 120/160GB HD (Samsung or Seagate)
ATI 9800Pro Graphics card?
AV710 soundcard?
NEC 16x DVD-+R/RW Drive
17 inch LCD (Samsung)
post #8 of 109
Thread Starter 
Thanks, I'll do some research on those items. Hoping for some specifics though, since I'm scared of incompatability and stuff. Any other rec. would be welcomed as well!
post #9 of 109
I'm far too lazy to make one of my own, so I'll just link you to this Newegg wishlist, a $1800 gaming PC that's part of a series of "recommended systems at given pricespoints" that's maintained by someone at another forum. Take out the Audigy2 and the Logitech speakers, and it comes in under $1700... and you can rest assured that it will be more than capable of running anything you throw at it.

Edit: it doesn't come with an OS... if you're a student at a university, you can probably get WinXP Pro for very cheap (less than $10). Otherwise, factor in an extra $100 or so for the OS.

post #10 of 109
I'd recommend that you go with an Athlon 64 processor, a gig of name brand value RAM (like Kingston Value or Corsair Value, as you do not need the top shelf $$ stuff from those makers), and a GeForce 6600GT video card (about $200, great bang for the buck, will run any current games nicely). It's also hard to go wrong with an NEC 16x dual layer DVD burner for around $75. Unless you have your heart set on an LCD display, I'd recommend a 19" CRT monitor. A good one from Viewsonic or Samsung should set you back less than $250.
post #11 of 109
If your doing multimedia applications, P4s are the undisputed king of CPUs. For gaming an AMD64 could be useful.

waiting for spring would definitely be my inclination for 2 reasons.
1. If you mail order parts from someplace there is more likely to be a snafu now.
2. Cheaper.

As for building a comp, the only difficult part IMO is the application of the Heat Sink and Fan. Even this has been made easy with recent HSFU combos.

On to my reccomendations (assuming u have speakers, keyboard and mouse)
P4 3gHz $190 +25$ for HSFU
ASUS "P4C800-E DELUXE" i875P Chipset Motherboard for Intel Socket 478 CPU -RETAIL $190
G.skill (Samsung TCCD) Dual Channel Kit 184-Pin 1GB (if your not into overclocking get some cheaper stuff) $260
Western Digital 200 GB 8 MB Cache 160$
X-700 ATI RADEON 256 RAM(Until a few days ago I would have reccomended the GT6600 as its also an awesome card) 200$
Awesome CRT $200

That comes to about 1400 I believe. So there should be room for tax/shipping and add-ons.

What I like about teh configuration, is that the top end Motherboard provides oppurtunity for upgrades. Would be easy to upgrade to 2gb ram another hard drive and higher generation Video Card (PCI-E).

Hopes this gives you some idead.
post #12 of 109
Bwahaha... yet another... I'll try and spec one out for you. Mr. Radar will likely be along at some point; he seems to show up in these threads as well. Bear in mind that I'm a diehard AMD/MSI fan, so that's what I'm going to recommend 99% of the time. I'm open for ATI or nVidia, though; they each have their merits. So, without further delay, here we go.

Mobo: MSI nForce3 250 --- $103
This has a nice featureset; AGP 8x, 5x PCI slots, 8x USB 2.0, 3x IEEE 1394, 4x SATA, RAID 0/1/0+1, Gigabit Ethernet. Yes, I'm aware this doesn't have support for dual channel RAM, but with a $1700 budget, that's probably not much of concern. It doesn't add a ton of performance, anyway. And no, it doesn't have PCI-E. Newegg sells two AMD boards that I know of that have PCI-E; one has a sucky featureset, and the other only has 2 normal PCI slots, not leaving much room for future upgrades. Intel is pretty much the only way to go right now with PCI-E. Here's a decent one ($124) if you really want it.

CPU: AMD 64 3000+ --- $150
Probably the best in the midrange for a 64-bit compatible chip. 2GHz, Newcastle core.

Intel 2.4C 800MHz --- $145
If you get the Intel mobo, this is a very good CPU to pair it with. Supports HT and has an 800MHz FSB, and also very good OC potential if you care to get into that.

Seagate 200GB SATA --- $132
Seagate has become my new favorite HD manufacturer after being a diehard WD fanboy, and for good reason - they're dead quiet. The difference is like night and day. Unfortunately, Seagate doesn't make anything bigger than 200GB for SATA, other than the 400GB, which is insanely expensive. There's a WD 250GB SATA for $153 if you want the extra storage, but be warned it *will* be noisier.

Corsair Value Select 2x512MB (1GB) --- $142.15
Great RAM, rock steady, and cheap. You can add another 512MB if you want for $71.15 (identical chip)

Antec Silver Aluminum Performance 1 --- $115
Very, very nice case. Friend of mine built a computer in this. Rock-solid construction, and tons of little niceties that make them just excellent. They're also extremely quiet; thanks to them only having 2 fans for cooling, which are 120mm. Yet it still keeps things nice and cool. They've also got USB 2.0, IEEE 1394, and Audio I/O front panel jacks. More than you need? Maybe, but I'm of a firm mindset (after having cheap crappy cases) that you can't spend too much on a case.

Power Supply:
Enermax Noisetaker 470W --- $82.49
If you start adding in big CPUs, giant video cards (especially if they're not PCI-E, since AGP can't deliver enough power to modern ones) and the like, you want a big PS. This also won top awards from SilentPCReview. Bottom line, you want a quality PS. Shoddy ones can cause more problems than you can imagine.

Video Card:
This is probably the most debated point of any computer, possibly more so than AMD vs. Intel. IMO, it boils down to two things: what games you'll be playing, and if you'll be running Linux at some point. Also, if your motherboard has PCI-E. Among the two big new games, namely, HL2 and D3, they each support ATI and nVidia better, respectively. My 9800 Pro can keep up with most of nVidia's current cards in HL2, yet falters heavily in D3. Also of note, ATI hasn't released much in the AGP market yet, other than their top end cards, the cheapest of which are about $350. Wait about a month or so and the X700 will supposedly be released in AGP form. Unless, of course, you choose a mobo with PCI-E, in which case Abit makes a nice 'un for $166.50. A comparable nVidia product would be the Chaintech 6600GT for $189. If you want AGP, your nVidia options are fairly limited as well, and more expensive. The exact same 6600GT is $240.50 If you want ATI and AGP, the Sapphire 9800 Pro is pretty good, at $209.50. This particular card also has the nice ability in that most of them have the R360 core and can be modded to 9800 XT levels. I have a stock ATI 9800 Pro that's been flashed, OC'd, and runs great. If you're going to be playing HL2 more than D3, you could go with that just fine. Or you can wait around for the X700 in AGP. Otherwise, the nVidia cards will do just as well, but perhaps a bit slower in HL2 if you're running at very high res, i.e. 1600x1200. As for Linux, if you want 3D accleration, get nVidia. End of story

Optical Drive:
If you want Dual-Layer DVD burning, the NEC ND-3500A is perfect at $61. Burns DVD +/- at 16x, and +9 at 4x. If you don't want/need dual-layer, I'd recommend the LG GSA-4160 for $69.99. Yes, it costs more than the NEC, but it also burns to DVD-RAM, if that's important to you. (good for backups) And it burns everything else at 16x. If you want a secondary drive, the Lite-On SOHC-5232K is quite good at $44. Burns CDs and can read DVDs. If you don't want DVD reading in the secondary, there's the LG GCE-8526B for $26.50

Floppy Drive:
Say what you want, you still should get a floppy. $10.

CRT or LCD? The CRT is a Samsung 19" (1600x1200 optimal; 1920x1440 max) for $199.99, LCD is a LG 17" (1280x1024 optimal) for $269. Basically a matter of taste/budget. LCDs are good enough for gaming now, so that's not really an issue. The CRT has a slightly higher resolution, if that will be a deciding factor. Of course, you can bump up for only $739.99

I'm going to leave this one up to you, as it's a highly personal choice. Logitech makes good stuff, if you need a recommendation.


Chaintech AV-710 --- $25
But of course. Unless you want an EMU or something similar, get this. Can't beat it for the price.

For gaming, you'll probably want an Audigy 2 of some sort. There's tons of variables, so pick one. ZS, Gamer, Platinum... main differences are in the amount of bundled software. I believe the Platinum may have some small SQ increase. Not sure.

All in all, you should be looking at roughly $1300, +/- $200 depending on a few options. So, what think you?
post #13 of 109
Have you considered a SFF (Small Form Factor) PC like the Shuttle XPC, the AOpen EZ65, the Soltek EQ340IM QBiC, etc.?

You basically add a cpu, mount the heat sink (preferably heat pipe), add memory ($175 for 1G), a video card ($175). a hard disk drive ($100) and DVD burner ($50) and power it up. Since you want it for multimedia, get a wireless keyboard and Logitec MX1000 mouse ($125 for top of the line combo).

Here is a typical review: http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=1654

This is the one I'd get: Shuttle SN95G5 $325

I'd buy an AMD 3500+ ($265) in 90nm: it takes less power, is cheaper and faster than a Prescott 3.4 (even the 775 flavour). At load it should run at 50C/122. Throw in an nVidia 6600GT (~$175) and your favourite LCD monitor. May I suggest the Viewsonic VP210 at $750?

checkout these screenies: http://www.gamepc.com/labs/view_cont...=vp201b&page=5


Since I like zipzoomfly so much, http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/Produc...oryCode=031616

post #14 of 109
Thread Starter 
Whoah, so many options. I'm not gonna run linux, but probably just XP. The PC is gonna be mainly for personal home use for the moment, as varied as that may be. As for games, I'd probably be more of a D3 guy, since I'm a survival-horror fan. I play more RPG/RTS though. I really want to max out my budget, so take that into consideration. This PC has to last me the next 3-5yrs at least. I'm not sure about CRT v LCD, I just want whatever has the best picture quality for movies, etc. (for the price). High res is good though. I want to get the best processors as well (again, in my price range). I don't plan on using it for work (yet). Size and weight of the case doesn't matter much, it's staying in one place. :P

I'll take all your recommendations into consideration. Although I'm still completely lost. Any more rec. would be good. I really want to see all my options. Also, I'll probably end up ordering parts in january.

Got to ask, what tools do I need to put one together? You know, screwdriver , blah blah blah . . .
post #15 of 109
Why don`t you do Sata Raid?
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