Have you built a computer? I need suggestions about components to select


My son MUST (he says) build a computer.  He wants it for games and general use.  His current laptop is way too slow.
My son has compiled the list you see below.  (Expensive).
I told him I would "ask the guys (gals)" on EE for recommendations.  I said they might be able to recommend other components that are just-as-good, but cheaper.  I also said they might be able to recommend PLACES to buy components at great prices.  They might even be able to recommend web sites or forums that address this desire (build a computer at a great price).

Thank you very much for offering your help.

Component         Description                                       Site                  Price      Shipping      Total                        
Processor           AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ Manchester           newegg.com      $357.00      $0.00      $357.00      
Motherboard   Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe                          newegg.com      $189.99      $8.48       $198.47      
Memory           Patriot 2GB (2 x 1GB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM   newegg.com      $119.00      $4.99       $123.99
Video Card           eVGA GeForce 7900 GT                          newegg.com      $259.99      $4.99       $264.98      
Hard Drive           Hitachi Deckstar 160GB SATA                          Already Owned      $0.00      $0.00      $0.00            
CD Drive           BenQ 16X DVD±R DVD Burner                          newegg.com      $33.99      $4.99      $38.98            
Case           COOLER MASTER CAVALIER 3 CAV-T03-UK newegg.com      $59.99      $16.23       $76.22            
Power Supply Antec TRUEPOWERII TPII-550                          newegg.com      $83.99      $4.99       $88.98                        
Who is Participating?
First, commend your son on undertaking this project. :) It's good to see folks willing to build their own computers.

Also your son has definately done his research. All of these components WILL work together as well as seem to be good 'bang for your buck' components.

In the world of computer hardware you can bet on two things:

1) Your hardware will become obsolete in 4 years or so. This varies from component to component but generally speaking, video cards and processors are the most improved upon hardware components.

2) Prices drop relatively fast. With the constant influx of bigger and better hardware, prices on items that recently were astronomical will inevitably come down to Earth.

That said, here are my recommendations:

1) As for places to buy hardware I generally use the following process. First, I check www.pricegrabber.com for the item I am looking for to see the lowest possible price it is being sold at (when doing this make sure the low prices are for NEW items and not refurbished items). Then I compare those prices to newegg.com

If the prices are comparable I buy from NewEgg. Always. They are extremely reliable, have great customer service, and have a fantastic return policy. If the price is much lower than NewEgg I will consider buying it from the shop linked to on PriceGrabber but first I do some research on that company. If it is a company that has been around awhile and has good a good customer record I will purchase from them. If it's a small place whose website looks like it was slapped together overnight, I will not buy from them.

Remember, sometimes a price that's too good to be true is in fact too good to be true. Buying hardware from legitimate shops ensures that you are also receving a factory warranty and other perks of buying legitimate hardware. If it's too cheap, chances are it's not legit.

2) Overall price of the PC:

It looks like your son is a hardcore gamer. He certainly wouldn't need this setup for chatting on MSN. ;) Maybe he dabbles in movie-making, artistic pursuits with Adobe products, or even uses CAD. If so, this PC will definately meet his needs.

One thing to consider about this PC is that he will not have to upgrade it for many many years. I would estimate 5-6 years and it could possibly be sufficient for his uses beyond that. You could go ahead and buy cheaper and less 'powerful' hardware now but then you are looking at upgrading 2-4 years down the line as opposed to 5-6. It's a simple matter of whether you want to spend more money now or later.

One thing your son has done is choose a very good motherboard with SLI capability. This will ensure that 5-6 years down the line he will be able to upgrade to very good components without the need to upgrade the motherboard as well. This is the same approach I take when I build a new PC. I always consider compatibility and flexibility. Will I be able to upgrade individual components in a few years or will this PC need to be completely replaced?

When all is said and done it's just a simple matter of money. Obviously if you cannot afford this type of PC then there is nothing to consider. However if you're just reluctant to swallow this expense outright simply because it seems like a lot to spend all at once, I would consider the fact that it will not need to be upgraded for quite some time and that in the long run you may actually save some money by not needing to upgrade it constantly.

If your son's money is being spent on this I would rest easy in the fact that he definately did some extensive research and chose his options carefully. This is not a case of an 'impulse buy. Your son did his homework and that should be commended that he was very selective as to how he spent his money. It's also obvious that he cared about this computer enough to do as much research on it as he did. That speaks volumes about how well he will maintain the PC.

If however it is your money being spent all the decisions are up to you.

Unfortunately it's not a simple black/white issue of 'Buy this instead of this'. There is a lot to consider in terms of industry trends and where you get the products from.

I hope this helped. :)
I think you can get by with a little less CPU and video.  I build them on the side and rather than going top of the line now and needing upgrades in a year or 2 anyway (to keep up with the games) you can stay a little behind, still play the games, and still upgrade in 2 years.  I like newegg, I buy from them fairly often, I also like mwave.  I'll do a little shopping and post a similar config for you
Well, it looks like he found a good place to buy all the components - I buy most of my components from newegg as well, though I may find special deals from www.directron.com and www.buy.com.

An Athlon64 X2 will not provide him with better gaming, but depending on his comfort level with overclocking, an Opteron 148 will cost about $259 and be as fast as an Athlon64 FX.

I don't see the need for an SLI motherboard if he's only going to use one 7900GT.  The use of SLI gives better performance, but does not scale well with the additional cost, and by the time these cards are cheap enough to buy another to complete the pair, the newer single gpu cards will surpass the SLI performance of this (relatively) old technology.  Get the cheaper Asus A8N5X and get the same great nForce4 chipset.

Get the NEC 3550A DVD burner for about the same price and get dual-layer burning capability.

Spend a little more for the Seasonic 500W power supply and get a more efficient supply that is quieter (120mm fan).
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"MUST" is such a subjective term  ;-)   I went through the same with my son.

However, he's done a good job spec'ing it out and as you suspect has gone for the gold.  You can skinny down the processor greatly and still get years of service before it's "old".  Same with the motherboard.  I can't recommend a replacement per se, but less will be adequate.  You can easily shave $150 off of the combination.

That's not a bad price for memory -- your call whether to cut it in half for $60.

Video is where it's at for gaming and if he's happy with $260, count your blessings.

The case price is not too bad, but the power supply...  Just find one that's quiet and is 400W or better.  There are Antecs for under $60.

Good luck.
ASUS A8N5X nVIDIA nFORCE4 CHIPSET SERIAL ATA150 ATX FORM FACTOR                                                        $74.50
EVGA 256-P2-N553-AX GEFORCE 7600 GT CO 256MB PCI-E W/HDTV& DUAL DVI                                                   $175.00 (Has a 10.00 rebate until 5/31)
SONY DWQ-120A BEIGE SUPER ALL-WRITE DVDRW DRIVE W/SW (White box)                                                      $36.90
COOLER MASTER CAV-T03-UK CAVALIER 3 (BLACK) MID TOWER                                                                         $59.00
ANTEC TPII550 TRUEPOWER 2.0 ATX 12V VERSION 2.0 550W UL &                                                                     $88.00

Can't knock the Power Supply.  Good choice.  kept the case, I assume he knows what he wants.  The rest:  
I'm sure a dual processor is strong, not sure how much they add to the gaming world.  I've done 3700+ and 2500+, they play any game on the market.  Like I said, you don't have more than 2 years before you go upgrading to keep up with games, so i wouldn't spend $$$ for top of the line, I don't think the juice is worth the squeeze (on your checkbook, that is).  Memory is an upgrade.  never heard of Patriot, it might be OK, but it is REALLY cheap for 2 Gigs.  Good memory is essential for a gaming PC.  Video card, again, 1 step below the front line.  the 7600 series chipset supports all gaming.

Total:  Yours: 1103.95           Mine:  831.40.     I suspect shipping is about the same.  I believe performance will be relatively comparable.
Mine was mwave by the way.  All and all both mwave and newegg are real good with great selection.  BTW, the slowest piece of gaming is going to be your disk, with 1 SATA drive.  Since most games now dump 2-5 gigs on your drive, you might be better off spending the extra $89 for a second 160 drive and raid (striping) them.  I am a big disbeliever in onboard raid, and stiping has no recoverability, but on a gaming PC who cares.  Back up his school work on CD/DVD and go balls to the walls on disk.  Striping is FAST....
Will SzymkowskiSenior Solution ArchitectCommented:
Hello there,

I would recommend getting...

CPU - AMD 4000+ (reason) Inorder to take full advantage on the dual core you have to have games/programs that are compatable and will use both processors.

Video Card - GeForce 7800 GT OC BFG (reason) The 7900 Series are design for Windows Vista and video cards are the worst thing in a computer that loses its value quick. I just built my gaming pc last December and my video card has lost most of the computer value. I paid $479.00 CND w/tax and now I could get the same video card for $120.00 less. All other components lost maybe $10-15. 7800 GT will be more then enough to play high res w/performance at a reasonable price.

I currently play Counter Strike Source competitively and I need good video card and also fast processor. I have both video card and processor list above and I have had no lag or performance issues.

Hope this info helped
I second that you would waste your money on the CPU buying 4200+ Manchester. For the motherboard :  I would prefer GA K8n-SLI Pro over A8N32-SLI Deluxe. Rest is pretty good I would say.
Once you decide which parts you want to get, you can use http://www.pricewatch.com to find some bargain prices.

One thing to think about when looking for the cpu is to look for what is commonaly called a motherboard combo, which has the processor matched to the motherboard...  Pricewatch shows cpu-mb-mem combos for $540 for your specs, although I agree with some of the other folks that say 4200  dual is way too much even for the near future...
Wow, that's some cheap RAM! I agree with the others that if he's gaming, the dual cores won't do much besides raise your power bill a bit.

Also, the new socket for AMD is AM2, the replacement for 939 and 754...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socket_AM2

The key benefits are DDR2 support which should help with gaming (more system bandwidth), and upgradability. In 2007 those dual cores will be replaced by quad-cores, with L2 and L3 cache (http://www.amdcompare.com/techoutlook/). I'll be that they'll make a version for the AM2 socket that he can upgrade too.

The best advice I can give is WAIT until 2007! But I know that probably won't happen. Ask him to check out information on the AM2 platform and see if he's interested.
Yeah, I would agree with Arthur about looking on pricewatch.com. Newegg is great for external things and peripherals, but there are smaller sites that sell internal computer parts for much cheaper. These will be listed on PriceWatch. NewEgg also sells things that are bigger name brands.

Also, you may want to wait for some of Intel's newer chips to get cheaper. I don't know if your son has considered Intel for chips instead of AMD. Some of their dual-core stuff is really good. In response to the post above, you don't really need to wait until 2007 for the Vista release (if that's why you were recommending to wait). A good computer that you build now should be powerful enough for Vista (see Microsofts Vista requirements at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/capable.mspx). You should make sure that anything you build meets those requirements. Vista probably won't be good enough for complete use until a couple months until after the release, so it's probably not worth waiting.
No, I wasn't reccomending he hold out for Vista...it seems his son is on board the AMD boat, and if you look at their roadmap, they're phasing out sockect 939/754.

His son wants a dual-core socket 939 chip. In 2007, the socket AM2 (platform available now) will support quad-core cpus with L3 cache. If he can't wait though, I suggest he get the AM2 mobo, with an Orleans or Windsor chip, upgrade in 2007 and sell his old CPU on eBay.

It'd be a lot cheaper than replacing the old socket 939 cpu/mobo.
Plus, he'd have DDR2 RAM =]
It is speculation at this point what effect DDR2 will have on the Athlon64, since the memory controller is on die and already gets extremely high bandwidth.  Waiting for what's over the next horizon is a balance between what you want at this point in time and how much you are willing to pay for it.  You can always wait for the next best thing, but you may wind up never buying anything.
DFlaschenAuthor Commented:
Points have been split.  I'm sure I didn't get it right, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate your help, I do.
Son is assembling his new computer as we speak (he should be writing a paper!)
Thanks again.
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