I'm going to make an amendment to this piece but I can't edit the actual article so it has to go here.
As of right now: April 25th, 2013, this article is still very relevant to the current progress of gaming and building. If you are new here and don't know much about building I highly advise giving it a read even if you don't quite understand what I'm saying. You just might know a little more about computers when you're done.
I also highly advise, that if you are trying to future proof a rig of today for the next few years that you realize one thing, which is the one thing I tried iterating throughout the article. GPU is and will be #1 for quite some time. Put the most money there.
The next thing I want to make very clear, don't waste money on parts that can be easily upgraded later on. You don't need that after market cooler if you don't plan to OC. You don't need a 3TB drive when 250GB will get you buy the next couple of months. You don't need that gay looking case with all the flashy **** for 100 bucks. Concentrate all of your money on things that matter now, rather than things that can be cheaply and easily replaced later on.
* If your rig (tower only) is 800 dollars or above there isn't an excuse why you shouldn't have an SSD. Please refer to
video on HDD vs SSD speeds.
Take note, that the SSD used in the notebook demonstrating the speeds probably (more like most likely) isn't as fast as the one I or any other would recommend.
PSU is first on that list because this unit is the most important part of your computer whether you are gaming, 3D Modeling, Rendering, or making a server. I brushed on this before but I want to put it here too. If you use a cheap PSU it could undervolt your system from day one, die randomly, or send a spike through your PC blowing up parts if the voltage input drops or goes higher. A cheap unit does not regulate the voltage as good as a quality unit, nor can they handle the actual rated wattage. A cheap unit is rated at their peak wattage, a quality unit is rated at what they can handle for long periods of time and usually have an overhead of 100-200w give or take. This unit sends electricity to every single piece in your computer that you put money into. When you get a power brown or surge it can mean the death or life of your parts as well.
Do not skimp on this piece!
Before anybody asks, i3 3220 or 4100/4300. i3 3220 all the way. See first post for reason why.
Seasonic or Corsair? You won't go wrong with either brand if you are buying into their quality lines.
What about the others? Antec, Thermaltake, Enermax, Be Quiet!, and XFX also make decent units. I usually don't recommend these because I know I'm not recommending a bad part if I put a Seasonic or Corsair in your list. I also go by customer service (CS) as well when recommending any part.
Rosewill's Platinum line are pretty good too, but why spend money on those when you can get something you know isn't a 50/50 decision.
Should I worry about 80+ rating? Not exactly. General rule of thumb, if it's anything over bronze you are getting that companies better units as they put more time into it. Do you NEED Gold or Platinum? No. It just means that PSU can hold a higher efficiency at higher wattages than the rest. Can these companies pay for that label? Probably, and I wouldn't put it past lower companies to do so just to get a name for themselves. Google search Johnny Guru and see if his PSU reviews have the unit in question in there.
Where do you get your performance numbers for recommendations?
Good question. I browse all reputable tech sites that do grade A reviews including my own (yes, I review hardware). For GPUs I typically hit up TPU because they have an easy to use and read performance summary list for all resolutions. That doesn't mean I don't do research individually, but for other people wanting a quick look I can link that easily. I also try to keep up to date on performance enhancements via drivers or firmware updates. Not to mention, I'm home usually 24/7. I have nothing else better to do than look at performance figures and keep up to date on the latest hardware. It's not only my hobby, but I enjoy helping people and I only want the best for their money.
What if I don't believe you?
I encourage any and all people to Google for their own information! By all means, I'm not against somebody doing their own research before asking question. Just remember that I do nothing but eat/sleep/breath hardware so I have a firm understanding of the products in question. Don't be afraid to question my judgement or ask questions in general. Besides, in the end it's your money and your hardware. You get what pleases you. Just if you wind up getting the wrong thing don't blame me.
Are you going to update this with modern hardware?
I'm waiting for next gen games to come out and I will most likely do another (but fuller) comparison with older hardware to newer hardware. Plus, I need the cash to buy current gen stuff to compare with older stuff. Not everybody is going to buy a 1000 dollar CPU so I feel the 3960x is kind of irrelevant to the list, but it makes a better contrast than leaving it out. This new article will probably come the beginning of 2014 or somewhere in Q2 depending on launch titles for the new consoles and PC game demand on hardware.
Finally, my ending here. I'm not trying to discourage people from posting, but if you do not have the money now to purchase within a week of posting then please do not make a build thread. Hardware is still changing around every 6 months. Prices change continuously. Some people on here like to build with combo deals, promo codes, ect. These go away within a few days and if you don't have the cash to take advantage of them then it makes it a useless waste of time to make a build for you. That 600 dollar build could wind up being 800 with the same parts from either inflation or the removal of certain deals. That same 600 bucks could also get you a better rig in 3 months time due to prices lowering for whatever reason. So even though we want you to post questions, please don't make us make a build and waste that time when you can't actually purchase it within a reasonable time. Another thing, is I wont typically recommend waiting for new parts to come out unless it's a big deal or a game changer for your money.