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Old 09-30-2008, 11:40 PM   #1
LiquidRain
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Your Guide to a Magic PC - Guide in First Post

For the following parts:
  • Graphics card
  • Motherboards
  • CPUs
  • RAM
  • Power Supply
  • Hard Drive
  • SSD

Please see the Tech Report.

Here's what's left of the tips and tricks from my old PC-buying guide that I don't have time to update anymore.

Which GPU brand do you go with if you want to re-sell your card? This warranty information sheet should help you!

Some misc notes on GPUs:
  • If you're concerned about a specific game's performance, I suggest you do some in-depth research. The site I check for benchmarks is TechReport.
  • Try and stay away from "superclocked" cards with a price premium - they're a ripoff if you're paying a premium. You can achieve the overclocks yourself very easily with software if you find you really need the extra 5% performance.
  • Good brands are eVGA and XFX. They both offer lifetime warranties if you register your card after purchasing it. XFX sells both nVidia and ATI cards, though you will pay a bit of a premium for that peace of mind.
  • MSI's Twin Frozr series are the quietest cards, and come backed with a good (but not the best) warranty.

You shouldn't get multiple GPUs. If you're convinced it's a good idea, open the spoiler:

SLI and Crossfire (multi-GPU setup) are generally bad ideas when purchasing now. Those solutions really come in handy for multi-monitor gaming, and as I said at the top of this post, if you're looking at that this post isn't for you!

Don't believe me about SLI? How about Anandtech?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anandtech
And of course both multi-GPU solutions face the usual caveats of uneven performance scaling, more noise, and a reliance on driver updates to unlock the 2nd GPU on new games. As with the GTX 580 we’d pick the simplicity of a single-GPU setup over the potential performance advantages of a multi-GPU setup, but this is as always a personal decision.
Anandtech discourages SLI. This speaks volumes. In 99% of situations you are better off with a single-card solution.

Recently (2015) the introduction of per-frame based shaders has further complicated SLI matters, and further reinforces just how bad an idea it is. Friends don't let friends use SLI.
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Last edited by LiquidRain; 05-11-2015 at 08:37 PM.
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:41 PM   #2
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Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

There are two kinds of hard drives you want to look at:
  1. Performance drives, for Windows, apps, and games. These are pricier but fast.
  2. "Green" drives for lots of storage of movies, MP3s, etc. These are much cheaper, but also much slower for Windows and games.
Performance drive recommendation: WD Black series
Green drive recommendation: The cheapest drive you can get at the size you want

Solid State Drivers (SSDs)

The #1 upgrade you can make for your machine is an SSD for Windows and apps!

The Tech Report makes solid recommendations for SSDs, but my personal picks are anything by Intel or Samsung's Pro series. (the EVO has a bit of a checkered past) You pay a bit more for either brand due to the extra validation (quality assurance) they do on the drives.

Multiple HDDs: RAID

Do you want to use multiple HDDs chained together to get "better performance"? You should know that in reality, you won't. Go with a large SSD instead. For the technical reasons why, unhide this spoiler:

RAID is using multiple physical disks chained together to look like a single large disk to Windows.

Don't RAID for home use. It won't help your games load faster. It won't help ANYTHING load faster. Period. Get a solid state disk instead if you care that much.

Technical explanation: The bottleneck on HDDs are seek times - how fast a drive can seek to a spot on a platter. For example, take a drive with an 11ms seek time. Now take two drives with 11ms seek times in RAID 0 (both drives act as 1 huge drive), or RAID 1 (both drives mirror, holding the same data). Even if your file that's loading is split across both drives, both drives still take 11ms to reach that file - just as long as a single drive. It doesn't halve it. Where RAID excels is what it does after the hard drive seeks, and that's raw megabytes per second throughput. It will help somewhat in your loading times, but realistically you're looking at a measly 5% performance gain. While with RAID mirroring (2 drives host the same data set) you get increased system reliability, repeat after me: RAID is not backup. RAID is not backup. RAID is not backup. You're better off using a 2nd disk as an occasional backup sync than an always-on mirror. With RAID 0, both drives acting as 1 large drive, when 1 drive fails you lose everything. RAID 1 is not backup, RAID 0 dramatically increases your chance of system failure and data loss.

If you don't believe my statements above, there are plenty of other very reputable review sites that argue my point for me.

Buy an SSD if you're that concerned with disk performance. An SSD will murder any RAID configuration on performance.

About putting SSDs in RAID: you're increasing throughput, not latencies, so only bother with them if you have need to write gigabytes of data per second. (you won't be doing this)


Sound Card

You may want a sound card upgrade if you:
  • Use headphones that cost $60 or more and didn't come with their own USB adapter
  • Want to have Dolby Digital or DTS output for all your games
The only audio cards worth buying now are by ASUS:
  • $30 - Xonar DG - For clean headphone audio
  • $45 - Xonar U3 - A USB audio adapter: clean headphone listening and optical Dolby Digital 5.1 output (fantastic for laptops too!)
  • $70 - Xonar DS - Clean headphone output and Dolby Digital output for all system audio (not just movies)
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Last edited by LiquidRain; 05-11-2015 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:41 PM   #3
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Case

When shopping for cases (esp. the ones below) do price comparisons on their different colours and variations. The ones listed below are just for you to start with, starting with cheapest first:

CPU Cooling
Avoid watercooled solutions like Corsair H-series, Antec Hydro series, and CoolIT EVO. They're a lot of money, make buzzing-pump noises, and (anecdotally) have high failure rates. They're a cool idea but you're really better off with an air cooler.

When building, make sure to attach the heatsink to the CPU and motherboard BEFORE you put the CPU in the case!

Fans
The reason to plug the case exhaust into the motherboard, is that most motherboards (notably all ASUS boards) have automatic fan speed control that ramp up with the temperature of your PC. This helps when exhausting hot air when your PC is working and keeping the case quiet when it's not. Intake fans don't benefit as much from automatic control, and you don't need much intake to be useful, so the low speed fans that are quiet do a good job there.

Keyboards and Mice

Mice and keyboards are very subjective. The best recommendation is to head down to a Best Buy and see how some of them feel. That, or ask around on COG for favourites.

Commodity Parts - DVD Drives, Microphones, etc.

Buy what's on sale and the cheapest!

Audio - Speakers, Headphones, Headsets

For headphones and speakers, you may be best off asking the folks in the home theatre section of COG. I'll chime with a hearty recommendation if you do (very likely a Sennheiser set), but that's outside the scope of this thread.

Testing Your Build For Stability

Parts can arrive dead. It happens. The sooner you test your build the better, so you can get a return/exchange from the retailer instead of having to RMA to the manufacturer!
  1. Fire up the system, make sure it boots, recognizes all your drives, recognizes all your RAM, and make sure that all your fans are spinning.
  2. Give your BIOS options a once-over.
    • Use AHCI mode for SATA (not compatibility/IDE) for faster SSD and HDD performance
    • Enable/use XMP Profiles for your RAM if you can to take advantage of higher memory speeds
    • Turn on automatic fan management for quieter PC operation
    • Tweak anything else to your desires! (for example, I turn off things I never use like firewire, parellel, and serial ports)
  3. Run Memtest86+ for at least one pass (overnight for a sure-fire test) for your CPU and memory.
  4. Run Hitachi Drive Fitness Tool's thorough/complete test on your hard drive. (not on your solid state disk, you'll kill your SSD!) This can take a while so you may want to do it overnight.
  5. To monitor GPU heat and usage, use MSI Afterburner. Works on any video card, not just MSI.
  6. To monitor CPU heat and case fan speeds, use what came with your motherboard. Speedfan is also available but is difficult to use.
  7. Let Windows Update do the driver work for you. If Windows Update doesn't have it, download straight from the manufacturer's website. Try to use the motherboard CD as little as possible.
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Last edited by LiquidRain; 12-07-2010 at 10:53 AM.
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:42 PM   #4
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Monitors

Sorry, no such thing as a quick, easy recommendation here!

Here are the 4 different categories of monitors you'll come across:
  • Cheap normal panel - Exactly what you'd expect. Cheap, crappy, but usuable monitors. HannsG, BenQ, Acer, what have you. Beware of poor warranties and exchange policies regarding dead/stuck pixels.
  • Decent normal panel - Reputable brands: ASUS, Samsung, LG, Dell. Affordable monitors that aren't total crap. Better warranties and exchanges.
  • Nice normal panel - Higher-end models from good manufacturers. Adjustable stands, LED backlighting (though not always an indicator of quality), USB hubs, and somewhat improved image quality.
  • Premium panel - Prime stuff. Premium (using IPS or PVA technology) monitors have far better image quality and colour quality with perfect viewing angles.

The difference between nice and premium is massive. Take a look see at what happens when you tilt these monitors:

Normal Panel (ASUS 24")


Premium Panel (Dell UltraSharp 24")


You may think it's extreme, but as you get into larger monitors (22"+) these problems start becoming visible just sitting in front. The top of the monitor is darker than the bottom, or other weird artifacts. If you're not bothered, take the cheap route.

Regardless, the first place I always shop for monitors is with Dell. I value a good stand that is height adjustable and doesn't let the monitor wobble, and Dells consistently have the nicest stands. (their Professional line is "nice normal panel" category) Dell's UltraSharp line are also the most affordable premiums. You can often get a 23" UltraSharp with adjustable stand for less than $250. Some Dells also have "premium panel guarantee" - no dead pixels, guaranteed, for the entire warranty period. It's unmatched. Look for coupons and sales.

For all others? You'll simply have to browse around for yourself and see what's on sale.
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:49 PM   #5
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The only graphics card you need, a RIVA TNT2. OH YEAH!
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:52 PM   #6
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Can all PC recommendations include a packet of Magic? It comes in tube and syringe form.
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
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Can all PC recommendations include a packet of Magic? It comes in tube and syringe form.
Mine came in powder-form. Just add water!
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:57 PM   #8
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It's true but I'm no good with the powdered Magic- I just make a mess everywhere.
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:30 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bone View Post
It's true but I'm no good with the powdered Magic- I just make a mess everywhere.
Seriously, we tried to get this guy to make some kool aid. Lets just say that's why he burst through that wall.
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:48 AM   #10
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Hey guys! No talk about magic! The thread will be locked!!!

Whoops, forgot where we are now. Blast off!

I recommend CPUs and GPUs that are around $200 on Newegg.
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Old 10-01-2008, 02:12 AM   #11
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I was thinking about doing this thread. I was recently looking at machines. I was close to building a AMD/ATI based system. Saved a little money but is it worth it? All and all you'd probably be able to play <cough>Crysis<cough> just about the same with some of the latest stuff around.
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Old 10-01-2008, 02:18 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Rogue_hunter View Post
The only graphics card you need, a RIVA TNT2. OH YEAH!
Please, it's all about the Voodoo Banshee. 2D and 3D ON ONE CARD!
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Old 10-01-2008, 02:49 AM   #13
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Quote:
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Please, it's all about the Voodoo Banshee. 2D and 3D ON ONE CARD!
With a P200 MMX! Oh the mighty power of MMX!

(MMX stands for Magic Multimedia Xtensions, its the first time magic and computers mixed, the rest is history)
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Old 10-01-2008, 02:52 AM   #14
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Old 10-01-2008, 03:52 AM   #15
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I was just looking for this thread on IM.
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Old 10-01-2008, 04:29 AM   #16
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It's all about the Magic PC's guys. Nothing else matter.
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Shut up you dildo.
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Old 10-01-2008, 06:37 AM   #17
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I'm glad this thread is (going to be) back.
Even though I've just upgraded to a beast of a PC, I plan to look to this thread when my current overkill becomes underwhelming in about a year
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Old 10-01-2008, 06:46 AM   #18
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When should I upgrade my 8800GT?
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Old 10-01-2008, 09:21 AM   #19
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When should I upgrade my 8800GT?
Now.

too short.
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Old 10-01-2008, 09:22 AM   #20
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An 8800GT is still a good card. If you're happy with currently gaming on it, keep it!

Here's a link to a working version of my thread:

http://www.playitreviewit.com/forums...read.php?t=200
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