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Custom Building Help

Posted on 2003-10-30
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-27
I really need your help.

I have little idea of custom building a computer, but know it can save you a lot of money.

Can u please go to    http://www.atic.ca

Then on the home page click   "New home ATIC"

After that it's pretty much just choosing the parts. That's were I really need your help.

This computer is for gaming purposes. But I would like to save money as well.

AKA : getting the best quality for the lowest quantity.

If u could do this you would be a HUGE help.

Thanx everyone.    
Question by:Kiel_Com
LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:Rob Stone
ID: 9651160
What you want:

Decide whether you are going AMD or Intel.

AMD are cheaper and if you get a decent motherboard (most come with audio, and some with vga/lan, etc) you'll be fine with them.

A CPU (fan and heatsink too) around the 2-2.6GHz mark would be good - anything much higher and you are going high in price

RAM - DDR/RDRAM depending on the motherboard - 512MB is a good starting point these days, especailly as its cheap (DDR anyway!!)

HDD - 7200rpm speed and the size is up to you but no lower than 40GB.

CDRW or DVD RW for backup

Floppy Drive

Good AGP card, either nVidia or Radeon.  This is where you will notice the difference on games, so have a look at benchmarks (www.tomshardware.com and www.anandtech.com usually have them).  Don't go too cheap on these and you will be fine.

Modem/ASDL, etc for Internet

Operating System - it won't come with one so make sure you have the CD or you will be disappointed.

Speakers/Keyboard/Mouse and monitor.  Thats about it.


Expert Comment

ID: 9651277
I would suggest checking out other vendors before you lock yourself into any single retailer.
Microcenter.com, Newegg.com, any computer store, to make sure you get yourself the best deal.

Stoner79 spelled it out pretty good.  Just get a decent processor, a good video card, and a lot of RAM.

Do you have a current computer you'd consider rebuilding?  That would be the cheapest way to go.  If that's the case, check the specs on your motherboard to see how much you can upgrade the processor (boards support a range of speeds, specific chips.. you might be able to up your processor a few hundred mhz).  Up the ram, pick up a good video card, and you're good to go.  


Accepted Solution

guynumber5764 earned 200 total points
ID: 9652467
ATIC and (presuming you are in Vancouver) NCIX are generally considered to be some of the cheapest retailers in Vancouver.  They will both give you excellent bang for your buck  but you can expect very little in customer service.  Go to Future Shop and look at the packages of the games that you are interested in.  That'll give you an idea about how much computer you need.   You also have to decide what your budget is.  A friend of mine is fond of saying that "the computer you want is $1500 no matter what you want".  You may also want to consider what your needs will be in 2 years.

I would recommend to use one of their pre-specced systems that is close to your price range as a basepoint.  Print out the entire list of components and go through them one by one.  Start by pricing them (this is for your piece of mind and to get a sense of what changes cost).  Then find out everything you can about them.  I'll cover some important points below:

CPU: You can work yourself into a tizzy here but it is pretty straightforward.  An AMD 2400 is the same as a 2.4GHz P4 in terms of performance.  The AMD will probably end up slightly cheaper by the time you look at the mainboard and memory but they tend to be a little hotter and consequently noisier (see fans below).

motherboard:  The mb is the core of your system.  It basically defines how FLEXIBLE your system is.  Many new boards include all of the electronics including sound and video  on board and are excellent for someone on a tight budget(more on that in a sec):
- Each board will only work with either a P4 or an AMD.  If you have a preference...
- Check the range of cpu speeds that the board is rated to run.  You would like one that can go as fast as possible.  If, for example if the CPU you get is a 2.4 but the mb goes to 3.6, you could eventually replace your cpu with one that is 50% faster, possibly giving your computer a new lease on life.  The other philosophy (and not a bad one) is to treat the mb and cpu as an indivisible unit: you will never replace either.
- At least 4 memory slots.  See memory below.
- Onboard LAN is nice to have but I wouldn't pay more than about $5 extra for it.  You will need LAN when you hook up your high-speed internet (and you will...trust me).
- Ensure that the system allows you to disable the onboard LAN, USB and Video and Sound if present.  A year down the road this can be the difference between a fixable problem and an unfixable one.

Memory:  You want 512Mb of the fastest type the motherboard supports .  The main thing here is that you want 512Mb and you want it in as few "sticks" as possible.  That'll  leave empty slots that you can fill later if you need even more memory.  You can probably now see why 1x512 stick is more expensive than 2x256.  Since you've got 4 slots, you can save a dollar or two by going with the 2x256 (because half your slots are still empty).

Sound:  get the Sound Blaster-du-jour.  SB is a well-respected brand name and even when there is a compatibility issue at least everyone knows about it.  If you want great sound buy great speakers.  You don't have to spend a lot (my AL speakers were $50 and sound great) but a $10 speaker sounds like one.  Cambridge, Acoustic Reseach and Altec Lansing are some good brands.  Swing by Costco:  they have some really excellent products at reasonable prices.  Future Shop also has a demo booth set up.  If you are thinking of a 6 speaker system spend a moment thinking about the layout of your room:  where do those rear channels go?

Video:  Check out the gamers sites if you are interested in high end stuff otherwise buy yesterdays nvidia or ati card.  The gamer guys tend to be obssessive and have no issue with dropping $300 on a video card.  I would apply the same philosophy as with: if you want a great picture, buy a great monitor.  Buy a $50 video card and spend the money you save on a nice 19" flat screen.  TV out is ineteresting but I have always found it to be a pain to use and would not pay extra for it.

HD:  Size doesn't matter too much here unless you are the download king or do a lot of video editting.      40 Gb should be adequate but look for the pricing sweet spot.  Note that each Gb equals a season of your favourite show or an entire movie.   NOISE:  This is the first (but not last) time I'm going to mention noise.  I hate noise.  Noise is bad for two reasons: 1) noise comes from vibration which indicates wear.  Noisy components break.  2) There are few things as irritating as a loud PC.   Once you've got a loud PC it is very hard to make it quiet.

DVD/CD/CDRW:  I'm not current on this but I believe DVD + CDRW would be the pretty standard loadout these days.

Case and cooling:
The assemblers (ATIC et al) don't have time to flake around with crap cases so the ones they use are typically fairly decent (albeit low end).  Check on the web to find out how noisy the PSU is:  a fan can be replaced but who wants to be taking apart a brand new PSU?

CPU cooling:  Here is where you might have to put your foot down.  Find a QUIET cooler/heatsink that is approved by Intel/AMD for your cpu and INSIST on it.  Many coolers  use a high speed fan to increase the effectiveness of their cooler.  Unfortunately these things can get really loud and (as observed above) are subject to failure.  The better coolers use a slower, high quality fan with an engineered heat sink.  All for $10 extra.  Also, ask nicely that they use Arctic Silver instead of thermal tape.  All you can do is ask because you'll never be able to tell by looking once the system is assembled.  btw: heat sinks may be made of copper, aluminum or a combination.  I believe the combination ones  provide a good compromise between of efficiency and weight.

Hope it helps,

The main issues you are going to be looking at are speed/capacity, cost and noise
Case:  you are pretty safe here.
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Expert Comment

ID: 9652493
Let them assemble it.  a) they don't really charge you anything for the service.  b) they are very experienced at handling sensitive components like memories and cpus c) if you crush the cpu or smoke a memory the you are on the hook for it.

Expert Comment

ID: 9652550
I have a good suggestion fo you(if you are living within U.S.).Go to http://www.salescircular.com/ and click on your State name.
Then you should be take to your State home page. ON this page click On Free After Rebate products. You will definitely find some computer spare parts in that category and you get them all for free!!!!! Is'nt that great. As far as quality is concerned, you have to decide.Good luck!!!!!!!!!.

Expert Comment

ID: 9653681
Keil if you are interested i put a decent system together for $844.  I don't know how much you are willing to pay.

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