PC parts for a new PC

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sakeniwefu
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PC parts for a new PC

Postby sakeniwefu » Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:18 am UTC

Hi, now that yet another laptop is starting to melt from under my hands and after buying a real portable computer that does everything I ever wanted from a portable pc(sharp PC-Z1, no heat, 7+ hours of battery life, ARM CPU). I am thinking of building my own desktop for real computing and use the laptop as a server until it breaks for good.

However, I have never assembled a computer before and I don't know where to start.
what would be a good combination of hardware that more or less follows these specifications?

* CPU is fast(But not fast to the point of needing liquid helium to cool it) and can use virtual machine extensions.

* Has room for memory expansion(I would start with 4Gb)

* Can play games every once in a while(But only something from AMD or Intel *and* that isn't going to melt my motherboard when playing a lower end OpenGL game, else I can live without it).

* I want something that *won't* break and *when* it breaks, I will be able to replace the broken piece and keep on going.

Then where do I have to look for:

- Network and wireless adapters(Are they usually built-in or do you plug a card? and if it is an option which is better? Proprietary undocumented hardware is less than welcome)

- Case size. I want to know if everything is going to fit, is there some motherboard size number or something?

Thank you!

Carnildo
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby Carnildo » Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:37 am UTC

sakeniwefu wrote:* CPU is fast(But not fast to the point of needing liquid helium to cool it) and can use virtual machine extensions.

What are you going to do with this computer? Dual-core CPUs are faster per core, but quad-core CPUs are faster overall. If you're doing mostly single-threaded (word processing, web browsing) or two-threaded (games) things, a dual-core CPU is better. If you're doing highly multi-threaded things (graphics, software development), quad-core is better.

* Has room for memory expansion(I would start with 4Gb)

Look for a mainboard with four or more memory slots. DDR2 memory is cheaper than DDR3 right now.

* Can play games every once in a while(But only something from AMD or Intel *and* that isn't going to melt my motherboard when playing a lower end OpenGL game, else I can live without it).

What sort of games? The latest Intel and AMD integrated graphics can handle a surprising amount, but even occasional playing of Crysis at high resolution needs a high-end graphics card.

* I want something that *won't* break and *when* it breaks, I will be able to replace the broken piece and keep on going.

That's why you're building it.

- Network and wireless adapters(Are they usually built-in or do you plug a card? and if it is an option which is better? Proprietary undocumented hardware is less than welcome)

Ethernet adapters are usually built into the mainboard. Wireless adapters are usually separate (PCI or PCIe cards, or USB dongles). I assume from your wording that you're going to be running Linux on this, in which case Ethernet drivers aren't going to be a problem, but wireless drivers are: most wireless drivers are still binary-only.

- Case size. I want to know if everything is going to fit, is there some motherboard size number or something?

Sizes have names. The common ones, going from smallest to largest, are Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX, Extended ATX. The ATX series are upward compatible, so if you've got a case for a larger size (say, an Extended ATX case), the screw holes and backplate are positioned to let you use a smaller board. Most prebuilt computers are Micro-ATX; most homebuilt computers are ATX. Extended ATX is mostly used by servers. Mini-ITX is used mostly for media-center computers because the small size and typically low power makes for a quiet computer that doesn't look out of place sitting next to a television.

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PhoenixEnigma
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:08 am UTC

Question number one - what is your budget? That's pretty critical for making suggestions. Question number two - what will this computer be expected to do?

Moving on. CPU speed is only somewhat related to speed. Generally, faster = more expensive and slightly warmer, but everything on the market comes with a perfectly fine air cooling system. It's only when the fastest isn't fast enough and you get into overclocking that major heat output becomes an issue. Virtual machine extensions are, IIRC, available on all mainstream CPUs at the moment.

Memory expansion. Mostly a function of the motherboard. As long as you have 4+ slots for memory (common on ATX boards and on a few micro ATX boards, see below), you should be in good shape.

Gaming. If you're looking to play any kind of decent game, you'll probably want a discrete graphics card. Many motherboards have intergrated graphics, but they generally aren't much use for gaming. nVidia and ATI(AMD) produce the vast majority of video cards, and something decent isn't very expensive these days. A seperate video card also opens the possibility of multiple monitors, which can be a huge advantage for some people.

Breakage. As long as you buy from reputable companies1, desktops tend to have pretty decent service lives - much better then laptops. The reduced size and weight restrictions mean things can be built more robust and be better cooled. Also, desktops are pretty damn modular. If something breaks, you can almost always replace just that part (and maybe one or two others) and keep on going.

Networking. Almost all motherboards have ethernet connectivity. This ranges from a single 100mbit port to a pair of gigabit ports - more then enough for most home or office uses. A few motherboards include wireless network adapters, but most people opt for a seperate card. WiFi cards are generally available as USB or PCI varients. If you're building your own system, PCI is almost certainly the way to go.

Sizes. Cases are usually specified by the largest size of motherboard they can fit, and the number of 3.5" and 5.25" bays. Motherboards generally come in standard sizes (wiki link) - ATX, micro ATX, and mini ITX are by far the most common. Internal 3.5" drive bays are used to hold hard drives. Externally accessible ones historically were used for floppy drives, but more commonly may be used for card readers or fan controllers. 5.25" bays are almost always externally accessible, and commonly used to hold optical drives. They can also hold a variety of other items, such as media interfaces, or anything a 3.5" bay may be used for.

1Ask around for reputable names for given components - lots of people are around who can give you advice.

Pre-post edit: somewhat ninja's
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sakeniwefu
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby sakeniwefu » Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:18 am UTC

I am trying to keep this cheap, but only as far as possible within specs. I don't want to be cheap and sorry. You can name brands.

CPU: VM running, software developing, mainly. By your advice I am thinking Phenom X4 945 which seems reasonable, but I really don't know if that fits my other(eg heat and longevity) requirements. I am hoping 4 cores can share the heat from a single threaded build process better than two.

GFX: My question basically is, will installing an external graphic card to play the occasional game(old or new(free or wine) but not very demanding, I am not going to be gaming) or just composition(It starts cool but after a while...) burn my motherboard and components like in a laptop? It probably depends on the card so I am asking for suggestions.

Network: If it is a matter of looking for supported chipsets and plugging in a device I can do that; I am more worried about motherboard embedded hardware(only ethernet is? what about sound?).

I am aware of the existence of many cooling methods but I would rather have something that can stay on reasonable level on it own. It's not just about the cost, As a backup method it i okay but I don't want something that *requires* advanced cooling. I take suggestions. I guess casing might be important too.

Thanks!

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cerbie
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby cerbie » Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:39 am UTC

sakeniwefu wrote:Hi, now that yet another laptop is starting to melt from under my hands and after buying a real portable computer that does everything I ever wanted from a portable pc(sharp PC-Z1, no heat, 7+ hours of battery life, ARM CPU). I am thinking of building my own desktop for real computing and use the laptop as a server until it breaks for good.

However, I have never assembled a computer before and I don't know where to start.
IMO, MechBgon's is till the best.
what would be a good combination of hardware that more or less follows these specifications?
Well...what's your budget?
I am trying to keep this cheap, but only as far as possible within specs. I don't want to be cheap and sorry. You can name brands.
Er, no, no, no. In some currency. Like, $500, or $2000, or one of those kinds I don't have a key for. Also, are you buying a monitor? You have no location, so, are you in the US? You can do a lot with a little, but can do more with, well, more money. Give us your target total cost.

Re: Network: if you're not going to use niche OSes, like some BSDs and such, GbE is GbE.
DSenette: (...) on the whole, even a trained killer cow is kind of stupid.

sakeniwefu
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby sakeniwefu » Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:40 am UTC

around 1500$ as a soft top? I definitely don't want to build something in the spec and price range of Dell's servers or gaming rigs. If it can play games, great but only if it's not going to harm other components or force me to buy some badass fan or a gold and diamonds coated motherboard for extra cooling.
I have been looking and It seems I could have something for less than 1000$. However I am worried to buy a too powerful/cheap gfx card, or a motherboard that slows down the components or just doesn't work because of clock speeds, voltage, etc. I can read the specs but I don't know what to look for. And I doubt they are going to say "breaks 4x faster than competition" so I would thank a vendor/model black list.
I am not in the US. I know where to get pieces etc. I just don't know where to start. There are just too many models and brands of everything to make a guess.
Monitor(1), keyboard, mouse etc I can sort by myself.
I am no hardcore gamer, nor I am going to run my own music recording studio, but I do want sound and video.
I am going to run a "certain BSD" and Linux but even if I was to use only Linux I prefer open components. Anyways I have lists of known good chipsets for things like network adapters, I am not very worried as long as it is something I can buy separately.

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Endless Mike
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby Endless Mike » Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:25 pm UTC

While I don't know what local prices are like, $1000 in the US will build you a sweet piece of computing even factoring in a good gaming video card. Even $500 would get you a respectable machine.

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cerbie
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby cerbie » Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:24 pm UTC

tl;dr, and the grammar is atrocious due to lack of sleep. It would have been a lot easier to just whip up a Newegg cart, and post links :)
sakeniwefu wrote:around 1500$ as a soft top?
OK. See, a light gaming box could be done as low as $500, with penny-pinching. But, more always gives some useful headroom, and that headroom comes in handy when you're going to do something different, or when you still have the machine in a few years with no major upgrades.
I definitely don't want to build something in the spec and price range of Dell's servers or gaming rigs. If it can play games, great but only if it's not going to harm other components or force me to buy some badass fan or a gold and diamonds coated motherboard for extra cooling.
Extra coolers and such will not be needed. They are handy, sometimes, but not required (watch out, though: some CPUs do not come with coolers, so verify that before you buy, and I forget which AMDs are that way). Just make sure you get a motherboard capable of the power-handling the CPU needs. Many boards won't handle the 100+W Phenom II CPUs (all but the very fastest have <100W versions for just a couple bucks more, too).

I have been looking and It seems I could have something for less than 1000$. However I am worried to buy a too powerful/cheap gfx card, or a motherboard that slows down the components or just doesn't work because of clock speeds, voltage, etc. I can read the specs but I don't know what to look for. And I doubt they are going to say "breaks 4x faster than competition" so I would thank a vendor/model black list.
I am not in the US. I know where to get pieces etc. I just don't know where to start. There are just too many models and brands of everything to make a guess.
Monitor(1), keyboard, mouse etc I can sort by myself.
I am no hardcore gamer, nor I am going to run my own music recording studio, but I do want sound and video.
I am going to run a "certain BSD" and Linux but even if I was to use only Linux I prefer open components. Anyways I have lists of known good chipsets for things like network adapters, I am not very worried as long as it is something I can buy separately.
Well, that BSD will basically be the only limiting factor in terms of hardware, and even then, everything common today could be well-supported. If you want open, you want AMD or Intel video hardware. Motherboards generally don't matter anymore, in performance, except RAM type and over/under-clocking potential. For that, it's best to see what reviewers have to say about the BIOS options. If you want to be really picky, make sure the board uses a Realtek network chip, and you pretty much have compatibility with any OS :).

Given such a budget, and wanting easy hardware virtualization, AMD looks very good. Intel has some slight advantages here and there, but making it easy to be 100% sure of good-performing virtualization working outside of server parts is not one of them :(. Not having many Core i5 CPUs, much less having them at good prices, is another. With AMD, anything but a Sempron or Athlon II LE has virtualization hardware included and enabled, along with all motherboards out there, AFAIK. You can do it with Intel, but it's more work when selecting parts, and it doesn't sound like you'll be worrying about one of those killer apps where Intel's current CPUs are far superior. The Athlon II X2, Phenom II X2 (I know: why?), Phenom II X3, and Phenom II X4 basically all perform the same as each other at the same clock speed per core. Given that average software is finally beginning to use more cores, you're doing development, and giving more resources for virtuals could be handy...I'd think you'd want a Phenom II X3 or X4.

Now, AMD's sockets and RAM are a bit...interesting, right now. The AM2, AM2+, and AM3 are all physically comaptible. The Athlon II and and Phenom II are all AM3, so just make sure the motherboard has that as a socket compatibility, and lists the new Phenom II and Athlon II CPUs. The differences are in RAM support and power saving features, for the most part. P.S.: AM2 and AM2+ chips won't fit AM3, but AM3 chips will fit and back down to AM2 or AM2+, which is what the AM3/AM2+/AM2 boards are having it do. With a AM2+/AM3 board, you're basically only losing DDR3 support.

You then have your choice of DDR2 or DDR3. At the same speed, they perform identically. DDR3 goes faster, but is more expensive. If you want to go up to 1333 or 1600MHz, go for a DDR3 motherboard. If you want to save a bit of money, go with a DDR2 one (remember: the motherboard decides which type of RAM, even though they look similar and both have 240 pins!). Some applications gain a fair bit from the faster RAM, some don't. If your budget ends up working about the same that amount here in the states, and you have a bit left over, I'd splurge for DDR3, and just not worry over it. For brands, just get one with a good reputation, and you'll be fine. With desktops generally being dual-channel, you'll find the best prices for RAM being two-stick kits, generally 2x2GB (4GB total).

For chipsets, the AMD 770 (no IGP), 785G, and 790xx (overclocker/many-PCI-e ones) are excellent. You basically just have to choose if you want IGP, and if you want to pay for more PCI-e lanes. These days, there's basically no difference in performance between chipsets. With AMD selling their own at decent prices, and with their historical good quality, unlike certain 3rd parties, there's little reason to look elsewhere, especially if you don't want closed hardware (nVidia).

Personally, I'm fond of Gigabyte and MSI motherboards. Asus, Biostar, and Foxconn are good, too. See what you have locally that fits your wants, and then check user reviews for it at Newegg. Everyone gets the occasional problem, and some people are idiots, but when there are 10% 1-egg reviews for DOAs and screwy failures, it's probably a model to be avoided. Also, it wouldn't hurt to get an eSATA port or two on the board. I <3 eSATA.

Until you run a game, you won't be missing anything with modern integrated graphics, so it wouldn't hurt to start with just IGP (AMD 785G, FI). Graphics are always moving fast, and we just recently got some new chips from AMD, which are already slowly pushing down the prices of lesser cards. If you want to get one, the 4850 is still probably the best deal. AMD's cards new cards need binary drivers to shine, and sometimes start X at all, in *n*xes, but the hardware is open, and there are open drivers actively being made better. Paying a hair more for bigger and better heatsinks and fans will not hurt in the long run, either. No need to go overboard, but $10-15 more, to not have a little crappy fan, can mean something a few years down the road, when a little high-RPM 40mm starts giving out.

PSUs: what's available? Seasonic, Corsair, Antec, and Enhance are hard to go wrong with, but there are quite a few good brands (half made by Seasonic :)). do not skimp on the power supply. You don't need tons of wattage (250W, maybe, but headroom never hurts, so figure 500W+), but quality. Even light gaming can often stress the PSU more than office use ever will. I have first-hand experience, and experience replacing clients' parts, here. A really good can generally be had for $50-70.

As a first-time builder, with a good budget like yours, I'd highly recommend an Antec Solo, if they're available, and then get a separate PSU, or, if you have them, a Solo w/ a 430W or higher (they used to exist, but I don't see any for sale right now). It has all the basics done just right, and aught to be good enough to hold you over until the ATX standard finally dies.

Storage: WD's Caviar Black, are, IMO, not worth the extra cost (over Blue). Other than that, just about any HDD and burner is good.
Last edited by cerbie on Fri Oct 16, 2009 6:40 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Axman
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby Axman » Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:31 pm UTC

Stop worrying about heat for fuck's sake. It's not this thing that's going to melt your case, set fire to your desk, and develop Carrie-like mind powers to get revenge on all the kids that made fun of it all those terrible weeks.

Computers use electricity to move electrons around. They're not exactly lead bearings, any excess power used will be converted into heat--and the engineers have some grasp of these concepts. PCB isn't something that is going to be harmed by the heat; it like everything else that isn't glass or electrolytic is there to in fact help dissipate waste energy.

All the parts are designed to operate at much higher thresholds than you will ever test, and the thresholds the manufacturers guarantee are much lower than the parts can actually operate at.

So calm down a bit and remember: the engineers who build these things are what a man's man is to engineers. They smoke solder cigars and dangle giant silicon ingots between their geometrically ripped thighs.

sakeniwefu
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby sakeniwefu » Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:21 am UTC

@cerbie, Thank you! This is exactly what I was asking for! Now I am not so lost.
@Axman. It might not matter for desktops now, but when I used to use desktops after a while gfx cards would start to overheat and hard reset the computer. The same with laptops only that other components start to fail before the gfx card. It is the same with CPUs. Build a few kernels or worse something like OpenOffice and the machine is not quite the same anymore.

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Axman
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby Axman » Thu Oct 15, 2009 5:17 am UTC

That doesn't seem right at all. I've been beating up computers for well over 15 years now, even overclocked my dad's 486. And I've broken a lot of hardware. A lot.

And never have I ever seen a part slow down or anything like that. They either work or don't, they're fine or they're broken. Stressing computer hardware won't wear it out, not in any way that will affect performance.

I think it's worth mentioning that you're saying instability is caused by hardware fatigue, when what's fatiguing your hardware is compiling your own software. Pickin' up what I'm puttin' down?

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Amnesiasoft
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Re: PC parts for a new PC

Postby Amnesiasoft » Thu Oct 15, 2009 7:03 am UTC

Seriously, just listen to Axman. He generally knows what he's talking about.


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