Computer Build, Upgrade & Buying Resource Thread
Disclaimer :: Last Updated 10 July 2014 :: Changelog
Disclaimer :: Last Updated 10 July 2014 :: Changelog
Asking for Help: Request a Build / Critique My Build :: Upgrade Questions :: Other Questions
Frequently Asked Questions: - Why Build It Yourself Instead of Buying a Prebuilt?
- What is Overclocking?
- What is SLI and Crossfire?
- AMD or Intel?
- How much power do I need? But …
Picking Your Parts: Processor :: Motherboard :: Memory :: Video Card :: Case :: Power Supply :: Storage :: Heatsink
Other Resources: Where to Find Reviews :: Sample Builds ::
Purchasing Your Parts: Tips on Saving Money :: What is a Mail-in Rebate? :: List of Retailers
Putting It All Together: Video Guides :: Installing Windows :: List of Software
ASKING FOR HELP
- Please do try and follow up with your requests and questions. Whether it be a simple thank you or a post about how the build process went, whether the computer is awesome or not, and your experience with everything. I enjoy hearing it and I'm sure others do as well.
REQUEST A BUILD / CRITIQUE MY BUILD back to top
- If you need us to suggest you a build or have us look over your build then you need to provide us some basic information. Post in this thread using the template found below, include any questions or concerns, and we will get back to you as soon as possible. You can also find some sample builds provided in the thread.
Try to provide detailed and specific answers rather than being vague. Saying “I don’t know” for a question is going to delay your request. Also note that many of us do not have extensive knowledge of the thousands of retailers around the world so if you do not provide a build along with the retailer website(s), your request typically gets ignored.
You are given the resources to make your own build so please attempt to do so or at least have a general sense of what you want. Effort is rewarded; asking for a critique on a build will get you more and better responses than asking for a build to be made for you. Some build requests are ignored completely because we don’t have the time to put in the effort for an individual who shows zero effort.
Please note that builds given will typically only be relevant for roughly a week. Prices and availability change constantly so a build provided two weeks ago may not be the best value anymore as prices on components has increased or better components went on sale.
[b]What is your budget?[/b]
[b]What is your monitor's native resolution?[/b]
[b]What games do you intend to play on this computer? What settings?[/b]
[b]What do you intend to use the computer for besides gaming?[/b]
[b]Do you intend to overclock?[/b]
[b]Do you intend to do SLI / Crossfire?[/b]
[b]Do you need an operating system?[/b]
[b]Do you need a monitor or any other peripherals and is this part of your budget?[/b]
[b]If you have any requirements or brand preferences, please specify.[/b]
[b]What country will you be buying your parts in?[/b]
[b]If you have any retailer preferences, please specify.[/b]
- You can find your monitor's resolution by going into Control Panel > Appearance & Personalization > Display > Adjust Resolution.
Requirements refer to hardware and/or software requirements such as wireless, needing a certain port like eSATA, needing a certain number of USB or SATA, and so on.
If you do not mention retailer preferences, we will use whichever retailer provides the lowest price before shipping and sales tax.
UPGRADE QUESTIONS back to top
- If you are wondering what you need to upgrade to improve performance or is upgrading worth it. You need to provide us basic information using the template below or in sentences. We will get back to you as soon as possible.
[b]What is your current build?[/b]
[b]What is your monitor's native resolution?[/b]
[b]Why do you want to upgrade? What do you want to achieve with the upgrade?[/b]
[b]What is your budget?[/b]
[b]What country will you be buying your parts in?[/b]
[b]If you have any brand or retailer preferences, please specify.[/b]
If you have a prebuilt and do not know what components you have, you can link us to the prebuilt or use Speccy.
OTHER QUESTIONS back to top
- Many of the frequently asked questions are already covered in their respective sections, “Radeon or Geforce?” under video cards, “How much power?” under power supplies, “What brand?” under nearly every section, etc. Please check and search before asking.
If you’re wondering if it’s a good deal, having trouble building, need help troubleshooting, or have any other questions and concerns. Feel free to ask. Most of us don’t bite.
If you need help purchasing a monitor then head over to the monitor thread. There are also threads to help you purchase a mouse, keyboard, audio gear and chair. You can ask your question in here as well but you’ll get a better response over in the threads where peripheral enthusiasts lurk.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- WHY BUILD IT YOURSELF INSTEAD OF BUYING A PREBUILT? back to top
- It allows you to select each individual component to make a computer that is tailored to your computing needs and aesthetic tastes.
It’s an amazing educational experience. You’ll learn about what goes inside a computer, how all those components fit together, how to plan, how to shop, how to overclock, how to troubleshoot, and a bunch of other useful things. Many of the skills you learn during the process are applicable in other aspects of your life.
Upgrading is easier because you know exactly what you have and you have hands-on experience. In comparison to Dell, it would be significantly easier because you won’t be hindered by the low quality power supply, non-user friendly case, and unknown motherboard.
You get a longer warranty on the individual parts that is used to build it yourself than you do with a prebuilt. A prebuilt typically comes with a one or three year warranty whereas most individual components come with a three year or longer warranty, sometimes even lifetime.
"You save money" is a popular reason but it isn't entirely a reason on its own. Buying a prebuilt from the boutique gaming PC vendors such as Falcon Northwest, Origin, and Alienware will typically end up being a few hundred dollars more expensive than building it yourself. But a prebuilt from the larger vendors such as Dell or Cyberpower will be less expensive than if you were to build the exact configuration yourself because these large vendors have economies of scale on their side. So why do people say that you save money if it isn't true? Well, you do end up saving money sometimes but that's not because you're saving on the labour, overhead costs, and markup. It’s because you’re able to customize it and select the appropriate parts for your needs.
Building a computer is relatively simple because you have so many resources at your disposal and nearly everything fits one way. Many individuals describe the process as building an expensive lego set. The only turnoff in my mind is that if you need to troubleshoot or exchange a component, it may end up being rather frustrating.
WHAT IS OVERCLOCKING? back to top
- Overclocking means making a component run faster than the speed it was sold at by the manufacturer.
Is overclocking safe?
- Yes it is as long as you do it correctly. This means buying good components, following instructions, applying some common sense, and not being careless. Simply increasing the clock speed without increasing the voltage will not damage the component. The worst case scenario is that the component will be unstable, in which case you will just need to reset the settings.
On the contrary if you do it incorrectly by not applying common sense, inputting random values, and not checking your values. It may result in a shorter lifespan or permanent damage for the component that is being overclocked. Overclocking a processor on a low-end AMD motherboard is not suggested.
Does overclocking reduce lifespan?
- The two things that are detrimental to components is excessive heat and voltage. As long as both are kept in check, the effects of overclocking on lifespan is negligible. To put it simply, another component is more likely to die before an moderately overclocked processor and you'll be wanting a new computer long before the processor dies.
- The biggest reason why individuals overclock is because it is a free performance increase with relative ease. Many video card brands include their own overclocking software with their cards which allow you to overclock simply by inputting a value or moving the slider. Overclocking without increasing the voltage does not void the warranty. Most motherboard brands also include overclocking software and overclock buttons with some of their motherboards to make the process easier. However, most enthusiasts still strongly suggest overclocking manually through the UEFI / BIOS to achieve the best results.
Other reasons include it being fun, getting a bit more oomph out of aging components, and because it is deemed necessary for some games and tasks.
PICKING YOUR PARTS
PROCESSOR (CPU) back to top
- AMD or Intel?
- Intel has higher single core performance but AMD offers more cores and allows for overclocking on a larger range of their processors. More cores do not make it better when the cores are not utilized. Most games do not utilize more than two to four cores so in most gaming cases, Intel will have the advantage.
Where AMD excels is in the low-end segment where you need extra cores and are willing to put the effort into overclocking but cannot afford Intel’s Core i5 and Core i7 K suffix processors. AMD’s APUs are also a good value for a basic gaming build.
Intel Core i5 or Core i7?
- The defining difference between the two series is that the Core i7 has Hyper-Threading Technology and the Core i5 does not. Hyper-threading in the most basic definition is technology that makes a single core act like it is two cores so a quad-core would act as an octo-core.
Most games do not take advantage of more than four cores so the $100 premium of a Core i7 over a Core i5 cannot be justified for gamers. That money is better being saved or spent on the video card.
Professional tasks on the other hand do typically make use of more than four cores. If you are editing, rendering, encoding, compressing, or benchmarking than buying a Core i7 could be justified.
What do the numbers and suffixes mean?
A newer generation will typically be better than older generation given that they are both the same speed. For example, a Core i5 4670 will be better than a Core i5 3570.
The K suffix indicates that the processor is unlocked and can be overclocked by increasing the multiplier. This suffix also has the same meaning on AMD’s processors. If you intend to overclock than you will need a K suffix processor on Intel’s side.
The S and T suffixes indicate slower and more power optimized processors. These are sold at a premium over regular faster processors and should not be purchased. Some may know these suffixes as sucky and terrible.
If you will not be overclocking then you just want a regular processor with no suffixes.
MOTHERBOARD back to top
- The motherboard is what allows every component to communicate with each other. The motherboard does not contribute to frames per second directly but does so indirectly. For example, a motherboard that only supports 1600MHz memory will be worse off than a motherboard that supports 3200MHz memory. But a $140 motherboard that supports 3200MHz memory will offer the same performance as a $240 motherboard with 3200MHz support, given that everything else is the same.
You need to match the socket type on the motherboard with the socket type on the processor. Intel’s Fourth Generation processors use socket LGA 1150 so they will only fit in a LGA 1150 motherboard. If you are interested in doing SLI or Crossfire, ensure that you get a board that specifies support for SLI or Crossfire. A motherboard that does not specify SLI or Crossfire support will not do them.
Motherboards come in four sizes (from smallest to largest): Mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, and Extended ATX. The standard size is ATX and the low-end segment will predominantly be micro ATX. The size will determine the size of the case you should get and how many ports you will have. A smaller board will mean fewer ports which limits add-ons. For example, a Mini ITX board will only have one PCI-E x16 slot which will be occupied by the graphics card. You will not be able to add another card, say for example a sound card or wireless card.
Besides that, the rest is really complicated so to keep it simple, if you do not understand what you are paying for than you are wasting your money. No, you are not future-proofing by spending more money. If you are intending to overclock, you do have to draw the line somewhere because lower-end motherboards typically have a shittier voltage regular module (VRM) which is not designed for overclocking. Pushing your overclock too far may result in some fireworks, literally. To learn more, you can check out Sin’s Hardware.
PCI-E and SATA
- PCI-E 2.0 and 3.0 are backwards and forwards compatible meaning a PCI-E 3.0 video card will work in a PCI-E 2.0 slot and vice versa. A PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot will not bottleneck a single GPU.
SATA 2.0 (3Gbps) poses a bottleneck for modern solid state drives but not for hard drives. SATA 2.0 (3Gbps) and 3.0 (6Gbps) are backwards and forward compatible.
Intel Z87, H87, H81 or B85?
- These are the chipsets for LGA 1150 motherboards designed for Intel’s Fourth Generation Core processors. Z87 is the only chipset that offers memory overclocking up to 3200MHz and processor overclocking for K suffix processors
Take away overclocking from Z87 and you get the H87 motherboard. H87 supports memory up to 1600MHz.
B85 is a budget chipset meant for businesses but many manufacturers have elected to use these for the low-end consumer segment as well. It supports memory up to 1600MHz. In addition, it has four SATA 6Gbps and four USB 3.0 ports as opposed to the six SATA 6Gbps and six USB 3.0 ports found on the Z87 and H87 chipset. It also lacks RAID features and vPro Technology.
H81 is the consumer budget chipset, it closely resembles the B85 in feature set. If you just need basic functionality than an in-expensive B85 or H81 is what you want.
AMD A55, A75, or A85X?
- These are the chipsets for AMD’s A series processors. Be aware that A55 and A75 are chipsets for both FM1 and FM2 socket motherboards. The two sockets are not interchangeable, you cannot have a FM2 processor in a FM1 motherboard and vice versa.
A55 chipset only has SATA 3Gbps support. This chipset is suggested for a basic build with an A4 or A6 processor. The A75 adds SATA 6Gbps and native USB 3.0 support.
The A85X adds Crossfire support and two additional SATA 6Gbps ports for a total of eight ports, up from the six found on the A75.
AMD 970, 990X, or 990FX?
- These are the chipsets for AM3+ motherboards designed for AMD’s FX and Phenom II processors.
The 970 is the basic chipset designed for use with a single video card and the 990X adds another PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, allowing for Crossfire. The 990FX adds additional PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, allowing support for up to four video cards in Crossfire.
MEMORY (RAM) back to top
- 2x4gb for gaming and 2x8gb for professional usage.
VIDEO CARD (GPU) back to top
- This is what produces that image you see on your monitor and it is where you plug your monitor(s) into. All the recent cards (Radeon HD7000 series and GTX 700 series) support three monitors via DVI, DVI, and HDMI or DisplayPort.
What is SLI and Crossfire? Do I need it? back to top
- Nvidia SLI and AMD’s Crossfire is technology that links two video cards together to increase performance. In some cases, there will be no performance increase because a lack of driver support.
Having higher framerates thanks to multiple video cards does not necessarily equate to a better gaming experience. This is due to a phenomenon known as micro-stuttering where playing a game at reportedly 60 frames per second feels identical to playing at a lower frame rate. For a more in-depth explanation, take a look at Tech Report’s article or Anandtech’s article.
SLI and Crossfire is not recommended except for when running AAA titles on absolute max settings or resolutions higher than 1920x1080.
Nvidia GeForce or AMD Radeon?
- This largely depends on price and individual preference.
Performance wise, AMD and Nvidia are competitive with each other with the exception that AMD tends to be better in the low-end segment. AMD typically offers more value as their cards can overclock further and their game bundle is vastly superior to that of Nvidia’s.
AMD has gotten a bad reputation for shitty drivers but their drivers have vastly improved over the years. Both AMD and Nvidia from time to time will put out a shitty driver.
CUDA is currently more popular than OpenCL but that is changing as OpenCL is backed by Intel, AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung, ARM and Apple whereas CUDA is limited to Nvidia.
Nvidia has ShadowPlay (not yet released) and GeForce Experience.
Nvidia has EVGA. No one on AMD’s side compares to EVGA’s level of support.
How much video memory do I need?
- Video RAM comes into play at higher resolutions and settings. Nvidia and AMD equip their GPUs with the adequate amount of memory based on the GPU’s performance tier. Some manufacturers will sell variants with more memory at a higher cost. Do not buy these unless you know for a fact that you will run out of video memory. Most AAA titles currently use under 2GB at 1920x1080 on reasonably high settings and use more than 2GB on max settings with anti-aliasing.
Crysis 3 memory usage, courtesy of Guru3D.
The notable brands.
- Gigabyte, ASUS, and MSI are the big three that manufactures video cards for both AMD and Nvidia. All three have excellent heatsinks for their cards and the typical three year warranty. ASUS and MSI has an RMA center in Ontario, relevant for Canadians on the east coast concerned with lengthy RMA’s. There is not much differentiation between the three for the typical user. Most of the recommendations you get from people will be based on preference and experience rather than absolute performance. One thing to note is that a single fan failing on MSI’s Twin Frozr II heatsink appears to be quite common. Though their newer cards employ Twin Frozr III and IV heatsinks, I am unsure if this fan issue still persists.
EVGA is not known for its excellence in products but rather their excellence in support. They are the only video card manufacturer to offer an extensive post-sale support range that features a community forum with active employees participating, community events, extended warranty, a lenient advanced RMA, and an upgrade program.
Sapphire manufactures AMD video cards. Their Dual-X and Vapor-X heatsink rivals the heatsinks from the big three. The downside to Sapphire is that warranty is two years and RMA service is outsourced.
How the GPUs rank roughly.
- GTX 780 R9 290
GTX 770 Radeon HD7970 R9 280X
GTX 760 Radeon HD7950
GTX 660 Radeon HD7870 R9 270
GTX 650 Ti Boost Radeon HD7850
GTX 650 Ti Radeon HD7790 R7 260X
Look at benchmarks from various websites to get an idea of how each card fares against each other in select games. Please note that most gaming benchmarks will not be representative of real-world performance. Benchmarks are typically done with a short (as in five to ten minutes) single player playthrough and may use an older game patch or video card driver that are less optimized.
What card should I get?
- The current generation consists of the Radeon HD7000 series and GTX 700 series for the high-end segment and the Radeon HD6000 series and GTX 600 series for the low-end and mid-range segment.
A Radeon HD7770, Radeon HD7790, Radeon R7 260X, Radeon HD7850, GTX 650 Ti, or GTX 650 Ti Boost is suggested for reasonably high settings at 1920x1080 in Starcraft II, Diablo III, World of Warcraft, and games based on the Source engine such as Left 4 Dead 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2, and DotA 2.
A Radeon HD7870 (R9 270X and R9 270 is a rebrand of this card), GTX 760, Radeon HD7950, Radeon HD7970 (R9 280X is a rebrand of this card), or GTX 770 is suggested for playing AAA titles such as Crysis and Battlefield on reasonably high settings at 1920x1080. The latter two are also suggested for reasonably high settings at 2560x1440.
A R9 290 or GTX 780 is suggested if you are obsessed with max settings.
CASE back to top
- The case is the ‘box’ that houses all the components and cases come in a number of sizes, shapes, and colour.
- The most predominant case size is ATX mid-tower and this is what you will typically want. An ATX case will fit ATX and micro-ATX motherboards. Most modern cases will be able to accommodate video cards up to 12 inches and the large processor heatsinks.
ATX full-tower cases are bigger and should only be bought based on aesthetics or if you plan on doing a custom liquid cooling setup, a triple video card setup, or have about a dozen drives. It is wrong to think that a bigger case automatically equates to better airflow. A mid-tower with fans properly configured will have better airflow and typically cost less than a full tower with its’ stock fan configuration.
If you are purchasing a micro-ATX motherboard then you can select either an ATX mid-tower or a micro-ATX mini tower. A micro-ATX mini tower will be smaller so it’ll be more portable and can look nicer while an ATX mid-tower will leave you the option of getting an ATX motherboard for your future upgrade.
You want a mini-ITX case if you are purchasing a mini-ITX motherboard otherwise it defeats the entire point of paying a premium for the small motherboard.
Why spend so much on a case when it doesn’t improve performance?
- The case is a very subjective matter and everyone has their own reasons why they spend a lot or very little on it. Some of the reasons to spend a lot include but not limited to aesthetics, comfort, and flexibility.
When I say comfort, I am referring to the ease of working inside the case as well as accessing the case and noise levels. Well-designed cases will have cable routing holes with rubber grommets, a CPU backplate cutout, thumbscrews everywhere or good tool-less options, dust filters, tool-less side panels, and so on. All these features make your experience working inside the case or accessing the case to clean dust filters much more pleasant. As you go down in price, you’ll see some or all these features missing. Also keep in mind that not all cases over a certain price point will have all these features. Cases missing some or all these features will make building and upgrading more difficult. For example, when you go to install a hard drive in a low-end case, you’ll typically have to remove both side panels, use a screw driver, and possibly remove the graphics card. On a well-designed case, you just pop out one of the side panels, pop in the hard drive, and connect the cables.
Noise is another concern. Lower-end cases may use thinner steel, be prone to vibration, and have worse fans that are noisier but not better at providing air flow. You also won’t find the use of sound dampening foam on low-end cases.
Higher-end cases are typically more spacey which allows for a very flexible configuration with fans, video cards, hard drives, radiators, and whatever else.
Cases don’t drastically change so you can re-use it forever if you so choose to. Spending $100 now and using it for two builds over the span of eight years is better than spending it on two in-expensive cases.
The notable brands and their respective cases.
- Lian Li and Silverstone are two of the most respected manufacturers in the market. Well known for their quality and gorgeous minimalistic aluminum design that carries a hefty premium. Lian Li cases are basically blank canvases which is a dream for modding.
- $90 to $140 PC-A04 mATX :: Black, Silver | | PC-B12 Silent
$160 to $180 PC-C50 mATX HTPC :: Black, Silver | PC-C60 HTPC :: Black, Silver
$100 to $140 PC-Q18 mITX :: Black, Silver | PC-Q25 mITX :: Black, Silver | PC-Q28 mITX :: Black, Silver
- $140 to $180 Raven Series ( RV02 Black, Black Windowed | RV03 Black, Black Windowed |
RV04 Black, Black Windowed )
$130 to $260 Fortress Series ( FT02 Black, Black Windowed, Silver, Silver Windowed |
FT03 mATX :: Black, Silver, Titanium | FT03-MINI mITX :: Black, Silver |
FT04 Black, Black Windowed, Silver, Silver Windowed )
$100 to $600 Temjin Series ( TJ08-E mATX | TJ11 )
Fractal Design is another well respected manufacturer that delivers simplicity, quality and functionality at a remarkable price. Their cases are commonly suggested by me and many others.
- $35 to $70 Core Series ( 1000 | 3000 )
$50 to $150 Node Series ( 304 mITX Black, White | Node 605 )
$90 to $140 Arc Mini R2 mATX | Arc Midi R2 | Arc XL
$80 to $120 Define R4 Silent ( White, White Windowed, Black, Black Windowed, Titanium Grey, Titanium Windowed )
$120 to $130 Define XL R2 Silent ( Black Pearl, Titanium Grey )
Corsair’s stellar reputation for quality and outstanding support is seen throughout their cases.
- $50 to $120 Carbide Series ( 200R | 300R | 330R Silent | 400R | 500R | Air 540 )
$100 to $130 Vengeance Series ( C70 Arctic White, Gunmetal Black, Military Green )
$130 to $180 Graphite Series ( 600T Black, Mesh Windowed, Silver Windowed, White Windowed )
$90 to $350 Obsidian Series ( 350D mATX | 350D Windowed mATX | 550D | 650D | 800D | 900D )
NZXT is known for their obsession with angles though their newer cases have toned it down.
- $40 to $50 Source Series ( 210 Black, White | 220 )
$70 to $150 H Series ( H230 Silent :: Black, White | H2 Silent :: Black, White | H630 Silent :: Black, White )
$100 to $250 Phantom Series ( 410 White, Black, Grey, Red | 001 White, Black, Red | 530 Black, White, Red |
630 Black, Grey, White | 820 Black, Grey, White )
Cooler Master is popular for their industrial / military looking HAF (High Air Flow) series of cases which live up to their name.
Antec’s popularity is a result of the Antec Nine Hundred and Performance One cases released several years ago. They have fallen off the radar since. Many of their cases have a lackluster interior and/or are not priced competitively.
POWER SUPPLY (PSU) back to top
- The power supply can be thought of as the heart of a computer. It converts the AC power from the wall outlet into DC power and distributes it to the various components. Selecting the right power supply is the most difficult part of the component selection process because you cannot make an educated judgement based on its cover.
The wattage advertised in a power supply’s name means very little despite it being one of the first things you see. You cannot say that a 500w power supply is equivalent to another 500w power supply or that a 500w power supply is better than a 400w power supply without looking deeper. Never buy a power supply based on the wattage alone, you need to look at the other aspects as well.
Modular or Non-Modular?
- Non-modular power supplies are where all the cables are permanently attached. Modular power supplies have some or all cables detachable. Modular is more expensive but makes installation / removal and cable management much easier.
- Haswell features a new sleep state that has a power draw significantly lower than that of previous generations. All power supplies will work with Haswell but you may run into problems when the PC enters or comes out of sleep mode if the new sleep states are not disabled in the BIOS. Power supplies that are “Haswell compatible” will be able to take full advantage of the new sleep state. Fortunately, most modern and good units are certified “Haswell compatible.”
What is 80 PLUS?
- 80 PLUS is a certification that certifies that a power supply is at least 80% efficient at 20%, 50%, and 100% load. It is a major marketing tool because everyone is familiar with the concept of efficiency and medal hierarchy.
Don’t be fooled though because the 80 PLUS certification program does not have very strict guidelines. Many manufacturers cheat to get the certification either by sending in a cherry picked unit for certification testing or rating it to operate at 30°C whereas higher quality power supplies are rated for continuous usage at 50°C.
The 80 PLUS certification does not tell you anything beyond the power supply’s efficiency. Do not base your decision solely on 80 PLUS.
If all these labels are meaningless than how do I select a good power supply?
- The only way to compare and select a good power supply is with the help of professional reviews that dissect the power supply. An easy way to find reviews is with the help of RealHardTechX’s power supply database. Here you will see a quick rundown on the various power supplies from each company and find their respective reviews. JonnyGuru specializes in power supplies so this should be your primary source for reviews. Other notable reviewers are AnandTech, Hardware Secrets, Xbitlabs, and HardOCP.
Good power supplies are rated for continuous usage.
- All the power supplies from the reputable brands are rated for continuous usage at a specific temperature. This means that a 500w power supply rated at 50°C is designed to output 500w forever in a 50°C environment. Many people, even seasoned builders are ignorant of this simple fact.
This does not mean that it is a good idea to buy a power supply to run it at full load constantly. Power supplies are most efficient at 50% and are quieter during lower loads so ideally you want a power supply that will be close to 50% load when you are gaming or doing intensive tasks.
Is having too much power a bad thing?
- Yes and no. Buying an unnecessarily big power supply will be a waste of money obviously but you get the advantage of being able to do significant upgrades easily without worry. Besides wasting money, the other downside is that you’ll be lower on the efficiency curve.
How much power do I need? back to top
- For the ease of building and aesthetics (adapters are ugly), you want a power supply with the appropriate number of PCIe connectors for your video card.
A good 400w to 450w power supply is suggested for low-end gaming computers consisting of a video card using a single 6pin PCIe connector. This means any current generation video card under $150.
A good 450w to 550w power supply is suggested for mid-end gaming computers consisting of a video card using two PCIe connectors. This means any current generation video card between $150 and $600.
A good 600w to 700w power supply is suggested for a dual GPU configuration with modest overclocks. 700w or higher is suggested for high-end dual GPU configurations.
But another guy said that the video card uses 400w and the manufacturer says 500w minimum!?
- Manufacturers recommend excessive power supplies to account for the large variance in power supply quality and computer configurations. Sales associates recommend excessive power supplies because it is part of their job to make you spend more.
As I said earlier, the wattage you see in the product’s name means very little because every power supply divides its power up differently amongst the rails and is using different quality components internally.
Individuals who say a video card uses 400w do not know how to read and is passing along misinformation. If you go to the power consumption section in any review, you will find that reviewers in most cases measure power consumption for the entire system using systems significantly more power hungry than a typical system. Here is an example from Anandtech’s review of the GTX 760:
Notice how it says total system power and not video card power. It is also worth noting these total system power measurements are done at the wall so these are AC values. When you convert to the DC power that is used by your computer, it becomes lower because a power supply is not 100% efficient in converting the power. If you go to Guru3D’s review, they calculate the load of the GTX 760 to be 169w. If you visit Nvidia’s own website, they specifically mention graphics card power is 170w.
The notable brands.
- Many brands do not manufacture their own power supplies. Instead, they take another manufacturer’s power supply, possibly tweak it, and sell it as their own. You can find out who manufactures the actual power supply using RealHardTechX’s power supply database.
Seasonic has a long-standing reputation for quality and is possibly the most popular manufacturer amongst enthusiasts. They sell under their own name but also manufacture power supplies for Corsair, Antec, XFX, and various others.
Super Flower is another reputable manufacturer that sells their power supplies under their own name in Europe and Asia. They are mostly known for their Golden Green series. They as well manufacture for Rosewill, EVGA, Kingwin, and others.
Other reputable manufacturers include but not limited to Channel Well Technology (CWT), Fortron Source Power (FSP), Delta Electronics, and Enhance Electronics.
Corsair is the most popular brand in power supplies because unlike many of the other manufacturers where there are bad power supplies in their line-up. Corsair’s entire line-up consists of okay to excellent power supplies manufactured by CWT, Seasonic, Chicony Power, and Flextronics.
XFX’s line-up consists entirely of good Seasonic power supplies.
Antec has a good line-up as well but typically overpriced and most of their models have become extinct for reasons unknown to me.
Rosewill was once known by many as a shitty brand but they changed that a few years ago when they began getting Superflower to manufacture the Capstone series for them. Their Capstone series is of very good quality and offers amazing value, it is highly recommended for any individual not wanting a Seasonic or Corsair AX. Their 80 PLUS Platinum power supplies known as the Tachyon and Fortress series are also excellent. Avoid their lower-end products such as the Stallion and Performance series.
Storage back to top
- Storage consists of hard drives (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD). These will be used to house your operating system, general productivity software, games, documents, media, and every other type of data. An SSD is more expensive per gigabyte than an HDD but they are significantly speedier meaning a faster boot-up time, faster load times, and lesser chance of stuttering. The system just feels overall more responsive with an SSD. Most individuals will recommend an SSD for every build over $900 because having an SSD versus not having one is a much more noticeable difference than being able to play a game on max settings versus reasonably high settings. An HDD should accompany your SSD unless you think that you can get by with only an SSD, which very few people are able to accomplish.
What SSD size?
- You are the best individual to determine how big of an SSD is appropriate for your usage. A 240GB or higher capacity SSD is generally recommended for every build where budget allows so that you do not have to micro-manage two drives. Individuals who don’t mind micro-managing or those who only play one to three games will be able to get by with a 120GB SSD. If you are on a limited budget than you will have to make do with a 120GB SSD or get a HDD in the meantime and add in an SSD later.
Keep in mind that your Windows operating system will be roughly 20GB with the hibernation and page file taking up roughly 10GB or more if not disabled. Most AAA titles are between 10GB to 20GB and end up becoming 30GB to 40GB with expansions, Starcraft II will end up being roughly 22GB with Legacy of the Void, and some of the more popular competitive games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike, and DotA 2 are all roughly 6GB.
The notable brands.
- Samsung, Crucial, and Intel all have an excellent track record in reliability and are three of the most respected manufacturers in the whole industry. Samsung’s SSDs are the only ones to be designed and built entirely in-house. Intel has some of the most stringent validation processes in the industry. Crucial has been at the forefront of driving SSD adoption rates and has built a brand known for its reliability. Their new M500 is the only consumer drive that carries several enterprise features such as top-level hardware encryption, adaptive thermal protection, and power-loss protection.
Samsung 840, 840 EVO, or 840 Pro?
- Yes, their drives are so popular that it warrants a question and answer. Samsung 840 Pro carries an additional two years of warranty over the regular 840 and is significantly faster at sequential writes than the regular 840. The TLC and MLC difference does not matter because a regular consumer will never exhaust the writes on a regular 840 before another part in the SSD fails or the SSD itself is long outdated.
The 840 EVO is the successor to the 840. The two are largely similar, with the EVO being slightly better in every aspect than the regular 840 and being available in capacities higher than 500GB. The major improvement with the EVO is sequential write performance which can be up to three times as fast as the regular 840.
Western Digital Black, Blue, Green, or Red?
- Blue drives carry a two year warranty and are your typical 7200 RPM drive that should be used for storing everything, get one if you can’t fit all your games and software on the SSD. Black drives carry a five year warranty and are slightly faster than Blue drives though the main point in purchasing a Black drive is for its warranty. Green drives are slower drives which are recommended to be used to store documents and media, get one if you can fit all your software on the SSD and just need a HDD for your music, video, photos, and documents. Red drives are designed for a NAS and RAID environment, don’t get one.
HEATSINK back to top
- The heatsink is the block of metal that goes on top of your component to keep it cool. In this section, we’re talking about processor heatsinks. All retail boxed processors will come with their own heatsink which is suitable for keeping the processor cool at factory settings. If you are overclocking or concerned with noise than it is recommended that you purchase an aftermarket heatsink.
All retail boxed heatsinks will come with thermal paste either pre-applied on the base or provided to you in a tube or package. You do not need to spend money on purchasing thermal paste. The difference between one quality thermal compound and another will only be a few degrees, a difference that is not significant for anyone except overclocking enthusiasts.
Is liquid cooling necessary?
- No it is not. Liquid heatsinks typically tend to be significantly more expensive and noisier while not being significantly better than radiator heatsinks.
The notable brands.
- Noctua is well known amongst enthusiasts for providing quality cooling products with a unique colour and outstanding support. All their products carry a six year warranty and mounting upgrade kits are provided free of charge for life. Also worth mentioning is that their documentation far outclasses all of their competitors. It is easy to find and use, is very extensive, and is updated in a timely fashion. Some of the more popular products from them are the NH-D14 (don’t buy this unless it is less expensive than the U14S, wait for the updated model which is expected to be released soon), NH-U14S, NH-U12S, and NF-P12.
Thermalright and Phantek contend with Noctua in performance. Phantek is known for providing a range of colours for their heatsinks and fans. You need an orange heatsink and fan? Phantek has you covered. Their popular models include the PH-TC14PE and PH-TC12DX. Thermalright’s HR02 Macho and True Spirit 140 are of excellent value. Thermalright is relatively easy to find in Europe but difficult to find in America, one of the few retailers that carry them is Nan’s Gaming Gear.
Corsair is known for their Hydro series. While not as good as radiator heatsinks in the same price range, they provide that smaller cleaner look for those who are big on aesthetics.
Cooler Master is known for their Hyper 212, a good budget solution.
PURCHASING YOUR PARTS
- TIPS ON SAVING MONEY back to top
- Think through it carefully before you decide on each individual component. You don’t want to buy an item on sale due to impulse, regret it later, and then spend more money to fix it.
Focus on price rather than a specific model because many components only differ in branding or in aspects that don’t matter for the typical user. Shopping based on price ensures that you won’t miss out sales on similar models and possibly better models. Or shop based on a hierarchy of models in case that model you had your eyes set on is out of stock or not available.
Use Newegg or PCPartPicker to filter products. Please be aware that PCPartPicker includes mail-in rebates in their final total and this does not reflect the final total you pay at checkout. Don’t be shocked to see it being $100 more expensive.
Look at different retailers because buying all the components from one retailer typically won’t get you the best price unless the retailer price matches. Most of the major Canadian retailers such as Memory Express, NCIX, and Canada Computers will price match.
Check to see if you have a Microcenter near you because they sell processors and motherboards for significantly less than online retailers. Some locations also are willing to price match so be sure to ask.
Keep your eyes on Slick Deals or Redflagdeals forums because other users will point out hot deals. Bargain hunting communities are a good resource for everything, not just electronics and computers.
Check for bundle deals, especially when shopping at Newegg.
Pricing and availability vary from region to region so you typically do not want to follow a build recommendation or guide based on the US down to a tee if you are from another country.
Pricing and availability will also often change from week to week so you do not want to purchase part for part based on a dated build recommendation or guide. Always be sure to get a recent build recommendation.
Some recommend buying used or open box items if you are limited on cash. If you decide to go this route, you can save a significant amount but do be careful and be fully aware of the risks.
Buying components over a certain span of time can also save you quite a bit but it is time intensive and carries some risks. If buying over a too long span of time, you end up losing your 30 day return window with the retailer and you must deal with the manufacturers if you end up with a defective part which is much more of a hassle. Those with poor management skills, knowledge, or lack of self-control may end up overspending and possibly end up with a build much more expensive than originally planned or a poorly optimized build. I would only recommend buying over a span of time for the more knowledgeable individuals.
Save on software when possible. Many schools are part of Microsoft’s DreamSpark program which provides students and faculty members with Microsoft software such as the Windows operating system at no cost. The Microsoft Store also provides discounts for students and certain organizations.
WHAT IS A MAIL-IN REBATE?back to top
- Many retailers and individuals advertise a price after mail-in rebate. This is very misleading for an uneducated consumer because this is not the price you pay at checkout. Retailers known to do this include Tigerdirect, NCIX, and Canada Computers. Mail-in rebates are most commonly found on video cards, motherboards, power supplies, and cases.
A mail-in rebate entitles you to a rebate if you submit an application via mail. You will typically be required to fill out a form online, print it, sign it, and mail the signed form along with an invoice and UPC label to a specified address. If your application is processed and approved, you will receive a rebate in the form of a cheque or prepaid credit card in the mail. Note that it can take several months before you receive it.
And yes, you need to pay your own postage to mail it.
If your application is rejected for whatever reason or gets itself lost on the way, you will receive nothing. Some retailers and brands are very generous with their policies and do help you obtain the rebate. On the contrary, some do flat out reject you. You may want to take this into consideration if you are willing to deal with mail-in rebates.
LIST OF RETAILERS back to top
Tigerdirect 30 store locations (FL, IL, GA, NC, DE, TX, PR)
Microcenter 23 store locations (CA, CO, GA, IL, KS, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TX, VA)
NCIX 13 store locations (Richmond, Vancouver, Coquitlam, Langley, Burnaby, Greater Toronto Area, ...)
Memory Express 8 store locations (Calgary, Edmonton, Richmond, Winnipeg)
Canada Computers 28 store locations (Barrie, Greater Toronto Area, London, Ottawa, Waterloo, Laval, ...)
Tigerdirect 6 store locations (London, Markham, Etobicoke, Burlington, Vaughan, Mississaga)
PC Case Gear
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
- VIDEO GUIDES back to top
- If you’re a beginner then make sure to watch a few videos to familiarize yourself with the build process. It’s a good idea to bookmark your favourite video so that you can easily refer to it on your tablet, notebook, or smartphone if necessary when you are putting together your computer.
INSTALLING WINDOWS back to top
- How to create a bootable UEFI USB for installing Windows 8
How to do a clean install with Windows 8 Upgrade
How to disable hibernate in Windows 8
How to disable sticky corners in Windows 8
How to disable stickiness on shared edges of multiple monitors in Windows 8.1 Update 1
LIST OF SOFTWARE back to top
- Ninite installs and updates all your software at once saving you the trouble of downloading multiple installers and clicking next. Highly recommended.
Display Fusion for managing multiple displays. Highly recommended.
TeraCopy is better and faster than the default Windows copy / move. Highly recommended.
Rainmeter for customizing your desktop.
Monitoring software to keep an eye on temperatures, speeds, voltages, and load levels.
Stress Testing and Benchmarking software to test for basic stability.
Western Digital Data Lifeguard Diagnostic or Seagate SeaTools
AS SSD Benchmark
x264 HD Benchmark
- WHERE TO FIND REVIEWS back to top
- Here are some websites where you can find professional product reviews, unboxings, news, guides, and other discussions relating to the world of electronics and computers. I would suggest using a mixture of sources, preferably made up of a video, two written reviews, and Newegg user reviews.
- Linus Tech Tips for product unboxing videos
StorageReview dedicated to storage
JonnyGuru dedicated to power supplies
Silent PC Review dedicated to silent computing
Hardware Canucks for video reviews – written reviews also available on website
HardOCP has an excellent forum community
Overclock.net is an excellent forum community
TechSpot known for its gaming performance articles
3DGameMan for video reviews
Newegg TV for video overviews and reviews