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Thinking about a new PCFollow

#1 Apr 10 2014 at 12:24 PM Rating: Good
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My desktop is fast approaching a decade old, and it just doesn't cut it for current generation games. I'm looking to upgrade, and wanted to get some idea of what specs I should look for and what to avoid. A few specific questions:

* Windows 7 or Windows 8? (No Apple!)
* 8GB memory appears to be the standard, but I see models with up to 16 (or 32 for gaming machines). Do I need the 16, or is 8GB enough?
* Any tips on processors and video cards? I don't really understand "dual-core" vs. "quad-core" or AMD vs. Nvidia.
* Is Alienware really worth the cost, or are you paying for the brand name?
* Any other tips would be much appreciated!

I'd like to keep the total cost under $1,000, which doesn't look like it will be all that difficult.
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#2 Apr 10 2014 at 12:36 PM Rating: Excellent
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Alienware equals massive premiums as far as I know, building it yourself is by far the best bang for your buck. AMD vs Nvidia is a difference in ease of updating drivers (AMD sucks apparently, I've got Nvidia) and AMD doesn't keep up with Nvidia abouve the midrange cards. There's no real choice in processors, it's intel or bust and an i5 fits in your budget easily (i7 only offers hyperthreading over the i5 and that's no use for gaming).


Edit: oh and 8GB ram should be plenty and if not you could always go with 2x4 and add another set of 2x4 later for 16GB.

Edited, Apr 10th 2014 8:53pm by Aethien
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#3 Apr 10 2014 at 1:08 PM Rating: Excellent
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I'm mainly going to echo Aethien: a current i5 is the way to go for nearly anyone. Most games won't take advantage of what the i7 offers for the extra cost. I'd skip the AMD processors entirely.

Conversely, AMD probably offers a better return on your dollar for graphics cards on the lower/mid end (but Nvidia currently compares better on the higher end). I've used both Nvidia and AMD and had fine luck with each. Anecdotes/Data and all that but I tend to look at most of the horror stories from either camp as overblown. I'd use the Tom's Hardware recommendations to narrow down your selections and then ask advice base don that when you're ready.

8GB is fine to start with and will probably be fine for the foreseeable future. Memory is one of the cheaper and easier upgrades as well so I wouldn't worry about going past 8 to start. Heck, 8GB will be more than enough really but you'll be future proofing a little and some games (Watch Dogs) are recommending 8GB.

I haven't tried Win 8 to have an opinion. Alienware is a brand name at this point, owned by Dell.
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#4 Apr 10 2014 at 1:10 PM Rating: Good
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Apparently AMD has really stepped up their game in the low-end range. Most people still use Intel for their high-end rigs, but if you're looking at the lower- or mid- budget ranges, a lot of people like some of the newer AMD options. The biggest issue seems to be their power draw, not their performance.

They also let you overclock on a budget, which makes them really competitive against the i3 chips (which are all locked against overclocking, to the best of my knowledge).

Demea, since you have most of your peripherals, all you really need to do is check your PSU's wattage, and then price out a mobo/gpu/motherboard combination (assuming you plan to reuse your case and drives). Though getting new drives is probably smart.
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#5 Apr 10 2014 at 1:15 PM Rating: Excellent
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I've overclocked an i3 though it was a Clarksdale 1156 socket chip so maybe that doesn't count.
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#6 Apr 10 2014 at 1:30 PM Rating: Excellent
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idiggory the Fussy wrote:
Apparently AMD has really stepped up their game in the low-end range. Most people still use Intel for their high-end rigs, but if you're looking at the lower- or mid- budget ranges, a lot of people like some of the newer AMD options. The biggest issue seems to be their power draw, not their performance.
AMD processors are very much at their limit because AMD can't afford to develop a new architecture so they're stretching what they have now which results in affordable budget options that draw loads of power and produce tons of heat. Really not a good option if you can afford to put an i5 in your system.


Also, spending $100 on an i7 over an i5 is entirely worth it if you plan to do a significant amount of rendering and video editing since hyperthreading is good for that. Similarly an SSD isn't going to do anything for games but is worth it for lots of other things.
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#7 Apr 10 2014 at 1:42 PM Rating: Excellent
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His Excellency Aethien wrote:
Also, spending $100 on an i7 over an i5 is entirely worth it if you plan to do a significant amount of rendering and video editing since hyperthreading is good for that.

True, but Twiz said he was upgrading for gaming purposes.
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#8 Apr 10 2014 at 1:48 PM Rating: Excellent
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Which is why I added the video thing, just figured I'd mention what it is good for alongside what it isn't good for. And if he's planning to become the next Youtube star it'll be worth the investment. Smiley: tongue


Edit: Reddit's /r/builapcforme subreddit is also good for parts lists so you don't have to think about parts much. There's even at least 4 different $1000 build threads on the front page so you probably don't even need to make a thread.

Edited, Apr 10th 2014 9:53pm by Aethien
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#9 Apr 10 2014 at 3:41 PM Rating: Good
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And if he's planning to become the next Youtube star it'll be worth the investment. Smiley: tongue

Sadly, none of my talents are appropriate for public viewing.

Re: upgrading my current box (giggle), I looked into this a few months ago and found that my power supply was too low for most current generation hardware. I don't have the specifics I'm front of me, but I'll check again tonight.

Thanks for the tips, guys (giggle).

Edited, Apr 10th 2014 4:42pm by Demea
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#10 Apr 10 2014 at 4:15 PM Rating: Excellent
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Demea wrote:
* Windows 7 or Windows 8? (No Apple!)

Windows 8.1 is presently horrible based on interface alone. but there is a fix patch coming in the next 2 months give or take. As of now, 7 hands down. in 3 months, we'll see. 64 bit OS either way. Apple sucks too.


Demea wrote:
* 8GB memory appears to be the standard, but I see models with up to 16 (or 32 for gaming machines). Do I need the 16, or is 8GB enough?

8 is likely enough. ram is dirt cheap though so adding more later is easy.

I have 32 GB and am contemplating swapping out for 64 GB. If you do alot of 3d model rendering it comes in handy. Certain games will also use it. No reason other than cost not to go higher.


Demea wrote:
*
* Any tips on processors and video cards? I don't really understand "dual-core" vs. "quad-core" or AMD vs. Nvidia.

Processors:
Intel High end processors are better than AMD high end processors.
AMD high end processors are cheaper than Intel high end processors
At the mid range AMD is still cheaper, Intel still performs better, Intel processors will run somewhat cooler and more energy efficient due to smaller nanometer design.
A core I-5 Quad core 3.2 Ghz processor is probably fine for most gaming PC's. Make sure you match the socket type to the board
The Intel Core I-7 processors give you hyperthreading, which is basically virtual CPU cores (so a quad core becomes an Octo-core processor.
The Socket 2011 Intel processors are the most expensive, but you also get 8 dedicated ram slots with 4 ram channels. You pay a premium for that though.
I personally prefer Intel over AMD. I currently have a Hexacore I7 with hyperthreading (12 logical cores.
Video cards:
I prefer Nvidia over AMD specifically because Nvidia drivers are less annoying to install and maintain than AMD ones. Hardwarewise Nvidia wins at the high end currently, but that varies by month. Get what you are used to and prefer. Either will be fine for gaming.

Demea wrote:
*
* Is Alienware really worth the cost, or are you paying for the brand name?

No, and especially not since Dell bought them out. Now you are paying for a brand name on a Dell computer. There are other companies to try if you still want to buy high end pre-assembled.

Demea wrote:
*
* Any other tips would be much appreciated!
I'd like to keep the total cost under $1,000, which doesn't look like it will be all that difficult.


1. You want a Solid State hard drive (250GB minimum) to install the operating system and your most used games and programs on.
2. You want a paid of at least 1TB hard drives to install as a mirrored data array for your files
3. Pick a good, high end case. You will likely have it longer than any other component of your computer and it's the one piece that takes the longest to swap out. Start with a Cooler Master CM 690 III or a Cooler Master Haf X then branch out based off your design and look preferences. Large fans move more air with less noise.
4. Don't buy a cheap no name power supply, and always leave some room for hardware expansion (most graphic cards for gaming require at least 525 watts, I wouldn't put anything smaller than a 650 watt PSU into a gaming computer). Also make sure you get a modular power supply. Will make life easier for the build.
5. I prefer Asus motherboards, with Gigabyte as a second choice.
6. The case you buy will likely come with all the fans and screws you need. The motherboard will likely come with the cables. The CPU will come with a cooling fan unless you buy a socket 2011 Intel CPU in which case you will need to buy one separate.
7. Buy a tube of Artic Silver Thermal Grease to have on hand in case you need to take the CPU fan off and back on.
8. If you want I can put together a reccommended build list based on that budget. Does $1,000 include the operating system ~$100?
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#11 Apr 10 2014 at 4:16 PM Rating: Good
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Being able to reuse your case will save you $40-140.

If you don't need a monitor or a new OS, that's another $200 saved. If you do need an OS, I grabbed a key from the software swap subreddit for $10.

I'd probably grab a new drive unless you've recently upgraded your current one. $50-60 for 1 TB.

I can't attest to the influence of having a SSD for your OS, but I've never seen anyone upset about spending the money for that upgrade.

Otherwise, it's really just setting the price point you actually want to spend, and then seeing how much power you can squeeze into that while still having a MOBO and PSU you're happy with.
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#12 Apr 10 2014 at 4:21 PM Rating: Excellent
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idiggory the Fussy wrote:
If you don't need a monitor or a new OS, that's another $200 saved. If you do need an OS, I grabbed a key from the software swap subreddit for $10.

You know that's technically illegal per the terms of the microsoft OEM EULA right?
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#13 Apr 10 2014 at 4:29 PM Rating: Good
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Dread Lörd Kaolian wrote:
idiggory the Fussy wrote:
If you don't need a monitor or a new OS, that's another $200 saved. If you do need an OS, I grabbed a key from the software swap subreddit for $10.

You know that's technically illegal per the terms of the microsoft OEM EULA right?

What I don't know can't hurt me.

This conversation never happened.
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#14 Apr 10 2014 at 5:11 PM Rating: Good
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My hesitation to build my own rig is that I know almost nothing about hardware specifications. Bus speed? Overclocking? DDR1/2/3? Not a ******* clue.
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#15 Apr 10 2014 at 5:16 PM Rating: Good
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Meh, most of that doesn't matter. Kao/people on Reddit will tell you if you make poor choices.

Putting a rig together is really just adult legos. Make sure you touch the case before touching a part, so you discharge your static, and ***** the standoffs into your case before you put in your motherboard.

The vast majority of the work is selecting your parts, and that's where you can easily get the most help. As long as you don't drop them when you get them, you'll probably be fine.
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#16 Apr 10 2014 at 5:21 PM Rating: Excellent
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There are also manuals with your parts that tell you exactly where what should go and loads and loads of instructional videos on youtube.
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#17 Apr 10 2014 at 5:32 PM Rating: Excellent
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Demea wrote:
My hesitation to build my own rig is that I know almost nothing about hardware specifications. Bus speed? Overclocking? DDR1/2/3? Not a @#%^ing clue.

Provided you're buying modern components, it's not a big deal and people can point out any issues. I'm not a build-your-own zealot though. I think it's worth it to do once just so you're comfortable with your machine and going in to upgrade it later but if you'd rather have someone else do it then more power to ya. I don't think the cost savings are truly substantial versus the time you'll spend and can potentially spend hunting down a problem but rather you do it for the experience. Whether the "experience" is worth it is up to you.
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#18 Apr 10 2014 at 6:36 PM Rating: Excellent
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There may be webshops that will put the whole thing together for you as well, more expensive since you're ordering everything in one place and you pay a fee to get it put together but probably still considerably cheaper than going with a premade PC.
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#19 Apr 10 2014 at 7:30 PM Rating: Excellent
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Savings on a mid to low end build are never enough to justify build your own as a cost savings method. You can however build a top of the line gamer rig for hundreds less than they charge you to order one usually. The other cost savings you get with a build your own is in the next upgrade cycle. If you made good choices in terms of case and whatnot, typically you can upgrade the core components only and still have a PC that performs like brand new, where with a buy from the store you often end up with a non upgradeable unit these days. There are exceptions of course. But typically I only have to buy a new motherboard and processor at upgrade time. Maybe ram too and video card. But case, power supply, drives, auxiliary cards, cooling gear typically only have to be swapped out as they fail or every 3 rebuild cycles or so. During that same time you would have purchased 3 entire new computers. It makes sense if you have the ability, time and inclination to do so, and if you are looking at high end video cards it can save you a bunch of cash in the long run. But your computer is also only as good as the skill of the one who built it too.
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#20 Apr 10 2014 at 11:57 PM Rating: Excellent
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When your upgrade cycle is once a decade, you're probably doing close to a full swap anyway.
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#21 Apr 12 2014 at 11:07 AM Rating: Good
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It looks like most newer machines use HDMI for video output. I have two DVI monitors. Am I just resigned to upgrading?

Also, how much of a difference does dedicated video card memory make? 1GB vs. 2GB (I've seen up to 4GB as well)?

Edited, Apr 12th 2014 12:13pm by Demea
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#22 Apr 12 2014 at 11:13 AM Rating: Excellent
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You sure? I'd see what card it has and check the specs on that directly. Even the newer mid-high range cards I'm looking at feature DVI output.

You want as much dedicated memory as you can get, really. And try to get DDR5 over DDR3 memory for the graphics card. Obviously this is all budget dependent.

Edit: By as much as you can get, I realistically mean 2GB to 3GB unless you're going to run multiple monitors. 2GB is becoming the standard and 3GB would give you some breathing space. I wouldn't go as low as 1GB if I could help it and 4GB seemes excessive unless you're running a multiple monitor set-up for some high res gameplay.

Edited, Apr 12th 2014 12:21pm by Jophiel
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#23 Apr 12 2014 at 11:27 AM Rating: Excellent
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Not that there's any particular reason to use Watch Dogs as a standard (aside from it being an upcoming AAA game) but its recommended specs call for a 2GB video card.
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#24 Apr 12 2014 at 11:45 AM Rating: Excellent
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I think ibuypower.com is supposed to be decent price-wise for custom spec'd PCs, but I've never really checked it out to see how it compares.
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#25 Apr 12 2014 at 12:27 PM Rating: Excellent
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Spoonless wrote:
I think ibuypower.com is supposed to be decent price-wise for custom spec'd PCs, but I've never really checked it out to see how it compares.


Be careful - someone I know got a box from them that had an inadequate PSU for the video card they dropped in and they had to RMA it twice.

Not saying they won't give you a good deal but double check the components they're including.
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#26 Apr 12 2014 at 2:04 PM Rating: Excellent
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Demea wrote:
It looks like most newer machines use HDMI for video output. I have two DVI monitors. Am I just resigned to upgrading?

Also, how much of a difference does dedicated video card memory make? 1GB vs. 2GB (I've seen up to 4GB as well)?

Edited, Apr 12th 2014 12:13pm by Demea

It depends on what you want to do with gaming. Most games will make use of all the video memory you can throw at them, but it does tend to get to the point of diminishing returns after the 3GB mark. 2GB should be adequate. That being said I have 2 780 GTX TI's with a total og 6GB video memory now. That replaced the 6GB memory total pool of the two 580 GTX's I just pulled out of the system. If youdo any 3d rendering or want to play MMO's in "extreme video settings mode" it comes in handy. That being said a $1,000 budget does not allow for a super high memory video card.


Spoonless wrote:
I think ibuypower.com is supposed to be decent price-wise for custom spec'd PCs, but I've never really checked it out to see how it compares.

They can be decent. You have to be careful about the components they use, especially on their lower end boxes.
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Spoonless wrote:
I think ibuypower.com is supposed to be decent price-wise for custom spec'd PCs, but I've never really checked it out to see how it compares.


Be careful - someone I know got a box from them that had an inadequate PSU for the video card they dropped in and they had to RMA it twice.

Not saying they won't give you a good deal but double check the components they're including.

Power supply and motherboard tend to be the two areas they skimp on. Selling gaming PC's with lower than reccommended power supplies and no SLI upgradability, etc.
Other companies to check out include http://www.originpc.com/ https://www.maingear.com/ http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/ There are others. Falcon northwest is nice too at the higher end.
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