Where to begin? I'm trying to build a gaming computer for around $500. I've never built my own computer before, and I have a fairly weak understanding of how computers work. I know what the key components do, like RAM, the CPU and so on, and I know the difference between an AGP slot versus a PCI slot, or a SATA and an IDE cable, but I'm pushing myself trying to get a build together that not only works, but works well.
I've spent the last ten hours researching the process and creating an idea for the machine, looking up all sorts of tech crap along the way like memory latency and volt rails (or something like that) that I never wanted to know about. I've also read some of the stickied guides on this forum which were of some help, but I need a little more.
So I suppose I'll lay out what I've come up with thus far, voice my questions and concerns, and hopefully someone can aid me. As is specified in the title, I use my computer primarily for gaming. This rig doesn't need to be top of the line (and it won't be for $500), but I'd like to be able to play something more graphically intensive than my old GeForce4 Ti 4200 and single stick of 256 RAM can handle. And a word of warning, I can see this post is going to turn out kind of long, but I want to try and be comprehensive, and not come off as some noob begging the veterans to build him a PC. Anyway, on with the show...
-- Newegg.com - Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 Yorkfield 2.5GHz 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor - Processors - Desktops
This is the first thing I chose. Essentially all I did was look at the system requirements for "Dragon Age: Origins" and chose the recommended processor. Brilliant, I know. Then after some comparisons it looked good enough to stick with, and I'm under the impression I'll want a fast one for multi tasking. Quad core seemed safer than dual core in aiding me to play intensive games, but I don't really know. Of course, this processor is $150, which is a sizeable chunk of my budget. I also considered this dual core: Newegg.com - Intel Pentium E5200 Wolfdale 2.5GHz 2MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor - Processors - Desktops
for half the price. Everything was going fine at this point. I had yet to encounter doubts about compatibility. Read on.
-- Newegg.com - MSI G31TM-P21 LGA 775 Intel G31 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard - Intel Motherboards
I thought I should decide on a motherboard early and initially went with this one because it was cheap. Truth be told, I don't completely understand what should go into a motherboard. I did opt to go the way of Intel over AMD based on a couple of reviews and the point made in a post on these forums which compared Intel to a skinny guy carrying less bricks, but quicker, to a fat guy carrying more bricks, but slower. That's about as technical as I got. Feel free to advise me to go AMD. A couple of points/questions:
1. The board and CPU must match socket types, correct? In this case they are both LGA 775, so I'm good there?
2. The front side bus of the motherboard and CPU must match, otherwise the motherboard won't be able to get the most out of its processor? This board supports 800, 1066, and 1333Mhz. My choices for a CPU were 1333Mhz or 800Mhz, so I think I'm all right either way.
3. It's a micro ATX board, and I may end up using an ATX case, which I believe will be fine.
-- Newegg.com - BFG Tech BFGE88512GTSE GeForce 8800GTS (G92) 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card - Desktop Graphics / Video Cards
I knew I wanted a decent video card so here's what I went with. Again, this decision was based on the fact that "Dragon Age: Origins" told me to do it. I'm such a sheep. I don't even want to play that game, I just figured it'd serve as a good reference point
Still, it looks nice. One question: the interface is PCI Express 2.0 x16. My motherboard has a single PCI Express x16 slot. I read on this site that 2.0 is backwards compatible, so I'm assuming I haven't goofed there. What about the other two standard PCI slots my motherboard has? Are those compatible with hardware requiring PCI Express x16? It's the x16 that's throwing me. I think.
-- Newegg.com - Kingston HyperX 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model KHX6400D2LL/2G - Desktop Memory
I was getting burnt out from all this so decided to chose some RAM next, figuring it would be less of a headache. It was, but not by much. After reading up on CAS latency and not really understanding timing, I opted for this little guy.
1. Again, compatibility. My motherboard has two slots for 240 pin sticks of either DDR2 667 or 800 RAM. This RAM is DDR2 800 and 240 pin. Seriously, this may seem obvious to the reader at this point, but I need assurances that I'm matching all this hardware up so that it'll work together. Soothe me.
2. I went with the 800 over the 667 because... it's better? I don't know. I do remember making an educated decision at the time, but trying to absorb so much information in one sitting has blurred out the reason.
3. My motherboard maxes out at 8GB of RAM, and I wanted at least 2 gigs to start, probably more later. A 4 gig stick was too pricy, so I went with a single 2 gig stick, leaving room for another 2 gigs down the road. I recently read on here though that two 1 gig sticks would be more effecient than my setup. Is it substantially more?
Ugh, I must have read more and agonized on this subject that any of the others. Even after reading the stickied posts here I simply don't know what to choose. I've read wattage is an overblown figure and amps are what matters, but I don't know how to figure my amp usage from all the hardware. I certainly don't understand this 'volt rail' structure. I ended up choosing a combo deal of case and PSU on Newegg.com as it seemed cheap and compatible with my hardware, but I've read cheap power supplies often found in case/PSU deals like this could fry and damage your other hardware. I'm not really looking to purchase this PSU but I'll use it as a reference to illustrate my many concerns. The link: Newegg.com - hec HP585D 585W ATX12V Power Supply - No Power Cord - Power Supplies
1. The type is listed as an ATX12V. I don't know what that is. I suppose I should look it up.
2. My motherboard is 24 pin, while this PSU has a 20+4 connector. As I understand it, that means it's a 20 pin connection with an attachable 4 pin connection, so it fits with either a 20 or 24 pin motherboard.
3. It has one 6 pin PCI Express connector, which my video card choice requires. Again, I need assurances.
4. My video card also needs a "425W PCI Express-compliant system power supply with a combined 12V current rating of 28A or more". If wattage is overblown, I assume I should focus on making sure my PSU has "a combined 12V current rating of 28A or more". Great. What does that mean? It sounds like algebra. I flunked algebra.
5. A helpful sticky on these forums gave me the advice that a good rule of thumb is that the more expensive the computer, the more power it needs. I'm using that post as my only resource on buying a PSU so far, but I could sure use help with specifics, such as how to calculate precisely the amount of power all of my hardware will need, as well amp usage on rails... if I'm even phrasing that right.
-- Newegg.com - Western Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAJS 320GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
I picked this one quickly as it has more than enough space for me and was recommended by an article I read. Simple enough. 7200 RPM should be fast enough for me, and the connections are SATA, like my motherboard.
-- SAMSUNG SH-S223F/BEBE Black SATA 22x double layer DVD+-rw drive-ACNT.COM
Again, picked this because it reviewed well and was cheap. SATA interface, so I'm okay.
And finally, that's everything. I believe I can use an old ATX case to house everything so I won't need to purchase that. I also have a monitor, OS and speakers. I'm going to wait and see on a sound card and floppy drive as I could do without both, but I need to nail down at least some of the choices I've made so far to get a clearer picture of price and where I need to make adjustments.
I think I spelled out all my concerns and questions. My biggest fear is that I'll be ready to assemble this thing and trip up right out of the gate due to the parts not being compatible. Past that, I'm not tech savvy enough to know what mistakes I'd be making even if it boots up. I can shop around for good deals, and I don't need my hand held so much that I need the best possible equipment for the right price, but I don't want to fry something due to a cheap PSU or lack of proper cooling. So any advice on this build would be immensely appreciated. I don't want to go ahead and chance buying all this until I feel more comfortable with my decisions. Thanks for the help.