Just covered buying gaming PC. Use “Alienware”:http://alienware.com or “Falcon NW”:http://falconnw.com in a nutshell. but if you want to build it yourself, here’s the scoop:
In terms of specs, there is what I would get. IN short answer to your question, right now for pure gaming, the short pipeline AMD has the advantage. Dual core seems to be the way to go and the early result show that it actually works quite well. All the server work on Windows has really paid off in a good multiprocessor, multithreading system. Anandtech as usual is incredibly helpful, so their reviews are noted:
h3. Processor
At “$370”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/p__AMD_Athlon_64_X2_3800_Dual_Core_Processor,__10479095 It is “cheap”:http://anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=2484 and very fast, overclocks well. Dual processor stuff is pretty well debugged now. You need to get the latest version of the BIOS so that the multiprocessor stuff gets recognized. Also, Windows XP Home apparently handles this just fine so you’ll get dual core without having to buy more Windows. Also, this 3800+ runs at 2GHz, so if you want to be more risky, it normally overclocks quite well to 2.4GHz to give you the equivalent of a $700 X2 4400+, if you love doing that sort of stuff.
_Hat tip to Scott here._ Now of course dual core is exotica, for just plain good value, you would consider.
* Athlon 64 3200+ $190 at Newegg. It runs at 2GHz and you can typically overclock it to 2.4GHz but of course reliability suffers. I regularly overclock my machines by 10-30%, but that’s me.
* Athlon 64 4000+ $370 at Newegg. About the same price as the 3800+, but it will be stable as it runs natively at 2.4GHz.
h3. Graphics Card
This is the heart of the machine, so there are three choices here, high, medium and low.
“XFX GeForce 7800GT”:http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2519 at “$380”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/p__XFX_GeForce_7800_GT_Video_Card,__10776741/sort_type=bottomline is the best price/performance right now. It comes into its own at 1600×1200 with all the eye candy enabled.
For budget folks, if you are just going to have a 1280×1024 monitor then a $300 6800GT is just fine and you’ll never know the difference. Things will look just great.
If you want that extra 20% in performance then for “$490”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/p__XFX_Overclocked_GeForce_7800_GTX_Video_Card,__9516413/sort_type=bottomline get the “XFX Overclocked GeForce 7800GTX”:http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2500&p=5
h3. Motherboard
The DFI LanParty UT nF4 Ultra-D at “$140”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=6603168/sort_type=bottomline is really the performance master. Great overclocking and it is popular enough that if you have a problem someone can find the answer. This board is really the only one with high enough voltages on memory (see below) to get incredible performance, so it is pretty much the board to get if you want to overclock.
If you feel lucky try the “$135”:http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813153030 “Jetway 939GT4-SLI-G”:http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2506 . This board actually supports SLI, so you can slam two cards in. It is well built etc., but the big risk is that it is a niche vendor, so good luck finding help with it.
h3. Memory
There are two choices here. If you overclock and love the latest in speed or if you just want good stability at stock 200MHz speeds.
The real overclocking leaders are the Mushkin Redline XP 4000 1GB at “$200”:http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820146390. and the “OCZ Gold VX 4000”:http://anandtech.com/memory/showdoc.aspx?i=2416&p=11 which is also about $200.
They use identical chips and identical designs, so just shop by price. You do have to really jam these with power up to 3.5V compared with the standard 2.6V and you need to put a low-speed 80mm cooling fan on the Ram as well, so it isn’t free, but it can go incredibly fast, up to
If you just want to run thing vanilla, then “Anandtech”:http://www.anandtech.com/memory/showdoc.aspx?i=2392 shoot out showed that the $100 “OCZ Value 3200 1GB “:http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=3996834/sort_type=bottomline had roughly the same potential to overclock at half the price of the more expensive RAM.
_Hat tip to Scott_. Finally, games are moving up into the 2GB minimum memory requirement. Battlefield 2 is already there and F.E.A.R. swaps like crazy in a 1GB machine. So if you have the bling, go for 2GBs
h3. Optical
This has got to be the greatest bonanza every. You can now get a all-the-bells-and-whistles DVD burner like the top rated Benq 1640 for “$45”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/p__BenQ_DW1640_Dual_Layer_DVD_RW_Writer,__10542082.
“Anandtech”:http://anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=2470&p=13 had a good shootout for this drive set.
By the way, in today’s day and age, you don’t need a floppy drive anymore, these modern machines boot off of a CD or even a USB memory key, so save the trouble. Get a flash reader kit instead. They are cheap at $20 or so at newegg. They can read just about every memory format.
h3. Disk
The thing that has mainly changed with disk is that the prices have just crashed. So, splurge. For a gaming machine, you really want two spindles. Most benchmarks show you don’t need fancy RAID 0 or anything, just make the fast drive the system one to boot Windows and the bigger one the data one for all your games, music, etc.
For the data drive, nothing beats the performance/size of the Maxstor DiamondMax 10 6L300GB at “$140”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/p__Maxtor_DiamondMax_10_6L300S0_300GB_Hard_Drive,__8871884/sort_type=bottomline. It is SATA and amazingly fast.
For the system drive, nothing beats the raw speed of the Western Digital WD740GB at $200. It is so fast that it rivals the big server disks.
h3. Monitor
The current trend is to get either a very good 19″ monitor as “Anandtech” covers in their shootout. The main thing is to get a display that is fast and which has accurate colors. T
“Anandtech”:http://anandtech.com/displays/showdoc.aspx?i=2400&p=11. The value leader is the Dell’s 2005FPW 20″ monitor, the a standard that all other monitors must adhere to for excellent ratings in our future reviews. 20″ widescreen display, with split screen over four separate inputs on a 1680×1050 resolution, all for $500 at the “Dell Outlet Store”:http://outlet.us.dell.com/Dispatcher?target=SNAPage&category=MO&tgtSeg=I! The only way that this monitor could have been better was if LG.Philips LCD had managed to squeeze a true 1920×1080 resolution into the panel. The UltraSharp 2005FPW is the display that we have been waiting for. It uses the same panel as the incredibly wonderful Apple 20″ display that costs more like $800.
There is a “thread”:http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid=40&threadid=1573834&enterthread=y with Dell coupon codes that enabled you to buy the UltraSharp 2005FPW for under $350 shipped. If you keep your ear to the ground, you can get a high performance display for half what they normally cost. The ideal card is the 7800GT driving this one. You can get away with a 6800GT on a budget.
At the high end, if you have the megabucks (well more like $1,000), to splurge for one of those wonderful 23″ widescreen monitors. “Anandtech”:http://anandtech.com/displays/showdoc.aspx?i=2467 loved the “$1,100”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/p__HP_Hewlett_Packard_L2335_Silver_23_LCD_Monitor,__8222432/sort_type=bottomline HP L2335 with its 1920×1280. At this resolution, splurging on the 7800GTX makes a lot of sense. That is a lot of pixels to drive. The consumer version BTW is called the F2304 and is just $900 with a rebate on “hp.com”:http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/shopping/product_detail.do?landing=monitors&category=hp&catLevel=4&storeName=computer_store&subcat1=flat_lcd&product_code=P9612A%23ABA. No word on how the quality differs.
BTW, the current trend is towards widescreen displays like the two above. Most games play in widescreen although some need hacks. The folks at http://www.widescreengamingforum.com/ know it all. Most modern games can handle the widescreen format though. Also both of these monitors use the jointly developed by LG and Philips SIP LCD panel. This is supposed to be very good.
Finally, I didn’t find too many reviews, but the Dell 2403FPW is very good according to “Extremetech”:http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,1764458,00.asp. It doesn’t use SIP panel so isn’t the ultimate, but it is much cheaper at “$900”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/p__Dell_UltraSharp_2405FPW_24_LCD_Monitor,__7247521/sort_type=bottomline it is quite a bit cheaper than the HP, but performance is theoretically a notch lower.
h3. Audio
I almost forgot this. There are lots of vanilla speakers around, but right now for gamers, the future seems to be the integrated headset that does surround sound and which also has a microphone so you can yell at your buddies. A headset plus a beautiful monitor by the way means that in a dorm room, you have paradise!
“Tom’s Hardware”:http://www.tomshardware.com/consumer/20050714/index.html did a headset roundup and really liked the $125 “Speed-link”:http://speed-link.com Medusa 5.1. Main drawback is that it is heavy and not particularly beautiful to look at.
They are hard to find in the US, but a “Canadian”:http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=13359&vpn=SL-8790&manufacture=After%20Hours%20Computers shop has them for Can$160. Lots of UK shops carry them to, but don’t ship to the US. You can get them from “Medusa-USA.com”:http://medusa-usa.com according to “upgradeadvisor”:http://www.upgradeadvisor.com/content/speedlink.aspx which is stocked out till mid September for $105 in a plain box.
h3. Power Supply
The easiest way to make sure your system doesn’t crash is to get a great power supply. Now the Seasonic S12-430 at $100 is expensive, but it is ultra-quiet and I’ve found it improves stability to have a good power supply quite a bit.
If you are running SLI (that is two cards) or a big card, to be conservative, you might need the S12-600 at $150. This is one of the few “SLI capable “:http://www.xoxide.com/slicertified.html power supplies that nVidia recommends. “Tomshardware”:http://www.tomshardware.com/howto/200507111/stresstest-29.html#our_recommendations_fortron_and_seasonic ran a huge test and just loved the S12-600, so it is cheap insurance.
If you want quiet and good, the rest of the Seasonic line is the way to go according to “silentpcreview”:http://www.silentpcreview.com/article28-page6.html, they have really good power supply recommendations that mirror the Tomshardware review. Essentially, they like the S12-380 and S12-430. I have the older Seasonic Tornado and can tell you they are really great quality and very quiet.

2 responses to “Gaming PC Do It Yourself”

  1. Rich Avatar

    Great points, Scott.
    On the dual vs. single core, pricing wise the single core is still cheaper. I’ll amend that. I actually think the 3200+ is probably the value with overclocking
    The ASUS boards always seem to be the safest. Stability causes that.
    You are right 2GB is coming up fast nowt that memory is cheaper.

  2. Scott Avatar

    Some good suggestions, but I think you’re leading people in some wrong directions.
    Forget about dual-core at this point, the only benefit is in general multitasking. Games don’t currently take advantage of dualies. See for yourself, you’ll do much better with a faster processor (AMD64 around 2-2.6GHz) and a single core:
    The 4000+ is 2.4GHz, it’ll wipe Intel all over the board and it’s only $368.00 at Newegg.
    For the motherboard, the DFI is the king of overclockers but some people have stability problems in which case I might stick to an ASUS A8N-SLI board.
    Now about memory: Battlefield 2 maps for instance each take up more than 1GB of RAM. The people with 1GB notice stuttering so many people are upgrading to more than that specifically for this one game, although 2GB is becoming the new standard. Some highly recommended RAM is here: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820227210
    For overclocking, pick yourself up a 3000+ or 3200+. The 3200+ might be easier to overclock because it has an even multiplier. People are often getting both of those up to around 2.7GHz! That’s pretty damn fast.
    I hope this helps some people!

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