Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

Computer Build Part One – Choosing Your Components

I actually completed this build about two weeks ago, but I’ve been too busy with school to write up a decent post on it. I previously wrote one post about ordering the parts for it, and another with a few teaser pics of my work area. Now I’ll finally get into it. Here we go…

The first consideration when building your own custom PC should be how you will be using it. Is this mostly just for surfing the web, emailing and the occasional MS Word document? If so, your focus should be on cheap, efficient parts that offer the speed you want in a low thermal envelope (aka minimal energy use and heat production). Will you be working on sensitive work documents? Build something with a focus on rock-solid reliability and loads of data redundancy. Are you mostly concerned with gaming or photo and video editing? Build yourself a beast of a rig with powerful graphics capabilities and a robust processor. That last one is what we’re focusing on for this series of articles.

The approximate budget for this build was $2500, but I also had a decent amount of “wiggle room” in order to create the best PC for the money. We went with parts that were specifically geared towards gaming and overclocking (the computer equivalent of tuning a car).

*Note: All parts (with the exception of a monitor) were purchased on Newegg.com. This site offers great prices and crazy-fast shipping, as well as excellent customer service. I cannot recommend them highly enough.*

The foundation of any system is the motherboard. For ours (this build was for my friend Raymond), I went with a Gigabyte EP45-DS3R. This is a quality board based on the Intel P45 chipset, their newest mainstream release. It features 6 SATA ports, 1600/1333 FSB, support for all the latest Intel processors (Core 2 Quad, Duo, Extreme, etc), PCIe 2.0, dual gigabit ethernet ports, etc etc etc. It’s loaded with nice little features at a price point that is hard to beat. One thing I have to mention is that with this board, I recommend flashing the bios to the newest. Many ship with the F4 bios, which is buggy at best. Mine came with F5, but I flashed it to F10g as soon as I got everything up and running. If you aren’t comfortable flashing your bios, use another board.

Gigabyte EP45-DS3R

Gigabyte EP45-DS3R

Next, we grabbed a processor. For now, I recommend Intel processors; AMD is struggling just to play catch up right now. I ordered an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500, stock speed 3.16 Ghz. This particular processor offers the most bang for your buck at the moment, and also overclocks nicely. We talked about a quad core for a little, but there simply aren’t enough applications right now that are multi-core optimized for it to be practical. The main purpose of this rig is gaming, and the E8500 really shines in that arena. A quad core might be a later upgrade, though.

Intel Core 2 Duo E8500

Intel Core 2 Duo E8500

In order to properly (and safely) overclock a processor, you’re going to need a  good heatsink. I went with the Zalman 9700 LED, partially because it works really well and partially because it looks cool ;). If you’re planning on using on of these, ensure that it will actually fit in your case first. We’re using a large chassis, so it wasn’t a problem, but in smaller cases you’ll be hard-pressed to actually make it fit. As with all overclocking projects, I tossed the thermal paste that came with the heatsink and used Arctic Silver 5. It is available for less than $10 at most places and is well worth the extra scratch.

Zalman 9700 LED

Zalman 9700 LED

Memory is always important, right? It helps your computer do stuff. Like run. Anyway, we choose 4 (2×2) Gb of Corsair Dominator DDR2-1066 RAM @ CAS 5-5-5-15 and 2.1 volts. I could have chosen DDR3, but for his budget, I felt the money would be better spent elsewhere. Corsair Dominators are really solid sticks, and they look good, too. The fan setup that comes with it is practially useless, as your RAM really won’t need it’s own cooling system anyway. It does look kinda cool, though.

Corsair Dominator 4 Gb (2x2) DDR2-1066

Corsair Dominator 4 Gb (2x2) DDR2-1066

We kinda splurged on Raymond’s storage setup. For his operating system, I went with a 300 Gb Western Digital Velociraptor @ 10,000 RPM. It is, quite frankly, a monster. This thing is beyond fast. It scares me. More on that later. For media storage, etc, I choose a 1 Tb Samsung Spinpoint F1. At this point, 1 TB hard drives have really become their own sweet spot, with many available for about $150 (or even less; check the link on that spinpoint). If you need tons and tons of storage, a nice 1TB drive is the way to go.

Velociraptor and Spinpoint F1 (the little drive on the left is a 2.5 replacement for his laptop)

Velociraptor and Spinpoint F1 (the little drive on the left is a 2.5" replacement for his laptop)

After that, it’s time for an optical drive. We could have just gone for a standard $30 DVD-RW, but that wouldn’t have been any fun! I hooked Raymond up with a Pioneer 5x Blu-ray drive. It only reads Blu-ray – not writing Blu-ray disks here – but realistically, he has no need to burn them. By the time he does, burners will be available for maybe $100. No sense in wasting the money now.

Pioneer Blu-ray drive

Pioneer Blu-ray drive

His computer needs a way to output all the pretty images from the Blu-ray, right? Of course it does. That’s what graphics cards are for. That, and gaming. And Folding@home. and Photoshop. and Video Editing. All that stuff. But I digress. I chose a Powercolor Radeon HD 4870 (reference design by ATI/AMD). I absolutely love this card. Words can’t express how impressed I am with it. ATI pulled a fast one on nVidia with this one. It features GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus. It’s cheaper than using GDDR3 with 512 bit, and works out to being faster, too (GDDR5 effectively quadruples memory speed, vs GDDR3 only doubling it). Pair that with a set of 800 stream processing units at a core clock of 750 Mhz, running DirectX 10.1, and you’ve basically got a card that runs like a bat out of hell. The only card that offers a better value for the price is it’s little sister, the HD 4850. We wanted a bit more power, so the 4870 was the way to go. If I had $275 laying around, I’d get one for my rig. I don’t though. I’m a poor college kid.

Powercolor HD 4870

Powercolor HD 4870

Providing the juice for this gaming rig is a PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 watt power supply. It is rated at 80+ power efficiency (83%, to be specific), which saves money on wasted energy and also produces less waste heat than your standard power supply. This was an absolute steal at $145 ($125 if you fill out the rebate), regular price $249. If you aren’t familiar with power supplies, suffice to say that PCP&C is the absolute king of power supplies. They are as reliable as you can possibly get. Period. Nobody else comes close. This is important because all the parts in your system get their juice from the power supply. If you don’t have a quality power supply, it can lead to brownouts or power spikes, potentially damaging everything else. I’ve heard horror stories of others who have cheaped out on their power supply and subsequently trashed all the other parts as a result of shoddy manufacturing and lack of quality control.

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 watt

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 watt

Finally, we his case. Raymond wanted something high-end, but not too flashy or full of lighting (it is in his bedroom, so a glowing box isn’t the best idea). I showed him the Antec P182 case, and he really liked it. This is technically a mid tower, but falls on the large side of that range. It is constructed of .8mm rolled steel, painted gunmetal gray. It features a separate compartment for the power supply, three 120mm tri-cool fans, rubber grommets on the back (in case he ever wants to upgrade to liquid cooling),  four 5.25″ drive bays, seven 3.5″ bays, and seven expansion slots. This thing is classy and provides plenty of features for customization to your personal needs.

Antec P182

Antec P182

The parts are rounded out with a Sabrent media card reader and a Cruzer Micro 4 Gb flash drive (for Ready Boost). I don’t feel like posting pictures of these, because they’re not particularly exciting, and I’m lazy. This pretty much wraps it up for the component selection of the build. Stay tuned for the next entry – it’ll be on the nuts and bolts (haha) of PC construction. I’ll go step by step with everything I did during the build. Heck, I’ll even tell you where I made mistakes. It’ll be a blast.

Advertisements

September 20, 2008 - Posted by | Tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] heatsink, LGA-775, motherboard, RAM, Zalman 9700LED, Zero Insertion Force | Okay, check it out: you’ve already chosen the parts for your new computer build. You’ve prepared a nice, spacious work area, all static-free and […]

    Pingback by Computer Build Part Three: MOBO + CPU + RAM « Tech + Lifestyle: Enhance Your World | October 18, 2008 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: