Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

PC Component Selection Guides

While I’m still on the topic of pc components, having written up part one of my pc build series exclusively on the parts my friend Raymond and I chose for his build, here are some excellent, up-to-date guides online to choosing components when building a PC or merely replacing or upgrading a part. If I’m not completely certain about a part, I often reference web pages like these. They can be absolute lifesavers for those of us that don’t do PC builds/repair work professionally.

My Pick For:

Radeon HD 4870X2

Radeon HD 4870X2


Guide to Graphics Cards: I can’t think of a better resource to use than the Best Video Cards For The Money series on Tom’s Hardware. The staff over at Tom’s updates the articles monthly, which is essential in a market where the next generation of hardware is released approximately every six months. Tom’s gives you the run-down, so to speak, showing the best cards at particular price points for both PCI-e and AGP card slots (most people should only look at PCI-e; AGP is only if your computer is older and you haven’t upgraded in forever). Heck, I used this guide when I picked up my XFX 8800 GT in January.

Intel Core 2 Extreme

Intel Core 2 Extreme

Guide to Processors: If you’re looking to get a new CPU, take a look at the resources at Tom’s Hardware again. Take note that these aren’t updated nearly as often as the GPU guide that is listed above. That’s for two reasons. First, processors aren’t released with quite the same frequency of graphics cards. Second, the GPU guide is updated to reflect the almost-frantic price changes that occur as ATI and nVidia battle for the best value. While that does occur to some extent with CPUs, it isn’t nearly as frequent, and not all processors are lowered in price. Most frequently, processors price drops are the result of either making room for newer models as they are released, or to compete more directly with their competition. Check out this guide in the forum over at Tom’s. It’s a bit lengthy, and goes into detail in places that simply aren’t necessary for your average consumer, but the guys over there know their stuff. Also, look at the CPU charts *Update: for a separate chart comparing all the absolute newest processors from AMD and Intel, check out these charts instead* the site has for some more info and real-world performance benchmarks. Simply choose a benchmark from the list provided, and they will display the performance of dozens of currently available CPUs. Finally, if you’ve got boatloads of money to drop, consider Intel’s new Core i7 line of quad-core processors. The i7 920, 940, and 965 are available now, with prices ranging from approximately $300-$1000. Be aware that motherboards supporting these processors (currently only X58 designs) are quite expensive, and also require DDR3 memory.

Western Digital VelociRaptor

Western Digital VelociRaptor

Guide to Hard Drives: Hard drives, quite frankly, have no set schedule with which they are released. Add on top of that the fact that there are five (give or take) major manufacturers of hard drives, compared to two each for graphics cards and processors, and you’ve got a fairly confusing playing field. Luckily, other factors are simplified, making the overall process a bit easier. The main producers of hard drives are Seagate, Samsung, Wester Digital, Hitachi, and Maxtor. Other than that, use 3.5″ drives for desktops, and 2.5″ (or occasionally 1.8″) for laptops. The speed at which your drive spins will be listed, and is usually 7200 RPM or 5400 RPM. If you see a decimal number afterward, it denotes what revision is belongs to – ex a drive marked 7200.11 will generally have better performance than one marked 7200.9. Once again, head over to Tom’s Hardware and look at their Hard Drive charts. They’ve got performance benchmarks done on enterprise drives, externals, 2.5″ drives, and 3.5″ drives.

Notice a trend here? I’m directing you to Tom’s Hardware for your component selection needs. Tom’s has a rather large staff, and as such is able to maintain extensive resources like all these charts and buyer’s guides. Some people have denounced Tom’s and accused them of selling out, becoming commercial, etc., but I say more power to them. They’ve found a good balance between providing detailed information and being accessible to the average consumer. The “selling out” is the reason they’re so successful, and the reason they can help you out. I’m in no way affiliated with Tom’s, I just like their site. Others have articles that are more in depth, or a little more insightful, but Tom’s has the consistency that is necessary.

If you want to do a little more digging before purchasing anything (and I highly recommend that you do so), go do some product browsing at They have extensive reviews posted by actual buyers for products, and reading their comments (poth positive and negative) can be extremely helpful in deciding whether or not it is a good use of your money to order Product X. Additionally, I’ve found their prices to be extremely competitive, matching or besting just about anyone else out there – especially brick and mortar stores.

Time for an Anecdote: sometimes, when I’m at Best Buy (a necessary evil), I’ll go over to the part of the store that stocks pc components. Not only do I get a laugh out of their absurd prices, I can sometimes keep an unwitting customer from dropping $250 on a graphics card he or she could find for $100 online (true story). That’s kinda satisfying. Best Buy should never hire me, I’d send all their business elswhere ;).

Eventually I’ll write up my own recommendations for power supplies, cases, memory, etc. Until then, good luck with your purchases, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you have questions! Just leave a comment below or shoot me an email at


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

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