Give me a budget and requirements, and I'll design you a computer

I could’ve stuck this in another forum, but I figured most of the people who’d want to build their own computers would have gaming in mind. But if you need advice a non-gaming computer go ahead and ask too.

I recently upgraded my own computer and I tend to over-research things because I want to make sure I’m getting the best value for my money and great overall performance when building a PC. I’ve also privately helped several SDMBers put together a custom system. So I figured I might as well create a general advice thread for anyone looking to build their own system.

I can’t really recommend a place to get yours built for you, as I’ve never really dealt with any of those places. I can tell you if you give me a list of specs and a price if it’ll meet your needs. I can also tell you if your prebuilt computer can become a capable gaming machine by adding stuff, so you don’t start from scratch. But mostly I’m aiming this at people interested in building their own systems.

Tell me what you’ve got to work with (parts from the old computer, if any - and if you have a copy/license of windows you can transfer over, that’s a decent savings), your budget, and what you need it to do, and I’ll give you a parts list.

As one of those Dopers SenorBeef has assisted in putting together a system, I endorse the above message.

I’ve had no problems with my rig at all.

(Well, none except for setting the heat sink was a right pain in the ass when I built it, but that wasn’t his fault, it was a fault of the guys the sink manufacturer hired to write the instructions. The written instructions were completely useless, and the pictures were only sightly less cryptic than heiroglyphics pre-Rosetta Stone.)

In my experience, setting heat sinks is typically the biggest problem for people who are building a computer for the first time.

Got any info on monitors? I’m looking for something large (around 24"), reliable and 1080p.

I’ll be using it to watch movies, play games and browse while redacting several text files.

If it were possible to arrange the screen so that it is higher than it is wide (great for reading and writing), that would be very useful. I’m not sure if that feature is called pivoting or something else.

For less than 250$, prferably less than 200$.

I’m actually extremely anal about monitors. I don’t like LCDs and I demand pretty high requirements of them. But my most important areas involve input lag and reactivity - basically how close the monitor is to acting like a CRT in terms of gaming ability. This may not be as important to you.

I have an Asus VW246H which is an excellent 24" 1080p monitor that currently is $200 on newegg. But I just got an ad on newegg that the VE248H, the newer version of that monitor with an LED backlight (along with speakers on that particular model) is $185 with promo code EMCKCKJ35.

Now I’m not sure the 248 is as good or better than the 246, but it’s in the same line of monitors, so it probably is. You may want to read reviews yourself. It’s about the best you can do in terms of a gaming monitor. But if color accuracy or viewing angle and stuff like that is more important - this monitor is above average at this, but it can’t compare to a more expensive IPS panel.

As far as rotating your monitor - this doesn’t have a stand that can do that, some do. Flipping the actual picture is easy, you just rotate it in your graphics driver.

Thanks. I’ll be sure to check it out.

What does an LED backlight bring?

As far as monitors go, you don’t generally see “1080p” listed in the specs, because any monitor with 1920x1080 native resolution is 1080p.

You really only see 1080p, 780p, etc. designations in TVs that can double as monitors, since I don’t think you can really change tv resolutions (though don’t quote me on that particular point, I’m still humping along with an old CRT till Christmas, haha).

Stay away from Acer monitors at all costs is my recommendation, my 22" (luckily it wasn’t my primary monitor) just died after two years of use. I’m sure it’s either the inverter or capacitors, but I don’t have the actual know-how (or tools) to fix it, I just know the “theory” of how to fix it.

As a result of this problem, I’ve been in the market for a 24" myself. I’m going with Viewsonic because my primary monitor and my husband’s two (we both run dual monitors) are Viewsonics, we love them, and knock wood they’ve never given us any problems.

In fact, we just got rid of a couple old CRT monitors that we retired several years ago, they were both about 7-8 years old Viewsonic CRT monitors, and those were in perfect working order when we gave them away too. Just a solid pc not-ridiculously-expensive monitor brand, imo. I’m sure there’s higher quality picture brands on the market, but not for Viewsonic’s usually more than reasonable prices.

This is the 24" Viewsonic I just picked up and am awaiting from newegg for 179 bucks: ViewSonic VX2450wm-LED Black 24" LED LCD Monitor -

How about a decent graphics card in the $150ish range. I’m looking at getting back into PC gaming after a hiatus. I’m planning on using my old case, hard drive, dvd-rw, and power supply. Based on suggestions in other threads I was planning on adding.




The best video card at $150~ is the cheaper of a 1 GB Geforce GTX 460 or Radeon HD 6850. The two cards are basically on par. The Radeon wins in AMD-biased games. The Geforce wins in Nvidia-biased games (lots of tessellation).

I’d also get the ASRock P67 Pro3 motherboard instead. It’s $5 but has more of everything, better power regulation, and USB 3.0.

How much juice can your old PSU put out?

The power supply is 500W

I was thinking of getting a new PC some time ago and asked advice then. The reason I wanted it, though, was to play Civ V and when it actually came out I wasn’t as interested as I thought I’d be, so I didn’t get one. However, the one we’ve got now is starting to annoy me and old tricks like scanning for malware and cleaning the registry aren’t fixing it, so maybe time for a new one.

Main thing we’ll be using it for is gaming and goofing off online. I have a backlog of games I haven’t played as the current PC couldn’t hack them at all or was so slow to make things unenjoyable. So for spec put down “plays games that came out a couple years ago.”

I’d like Win 7. Don’t need a monitor right away as I have an old CRT I’m fond of.

The source I was going to go with was

It’s bonus time so I reckon I could go as high as AU$1.5k, but given my modest needs I don’t think that’s really necessary, is it. Keep in mind, though, that prices here are fairly high, despite the strong Aussie/weak Yankee dollar. See Computer Alliance to get an idea.

I know this is vague as hell. My IQ seems to drop whenever I look at buying computers. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you think are relevant.

I’ve already bought the parts, but can you tell me what you think of this (not game-related, though)?

I had a single-core Atom barebones shoebox computer (an MSI Wind Nettop I got open box for $65) running Windows Home Server, but it up and died, with all my media on it (I have a backup on an external drive, but its sloow). It served me well, but it wasn’t an ideal platform for a server anyway, since it only had 2 SATA ports, and was very cramped inside, which meant poor ventilation and a lot of dust accumulation (which is probably what killed it).

I had mainly been using the WHS as my media repository - all my photo/music/video management apps on several computers were pointed at this server, and it was streaming to an XBMC AppleTV as well. With it out of commission, I’ve had to selectively copy over any desired media from the backup drive (it’s a huge pain in the ass).

So to replace it, I’ve got this:
ASUS E35M1-I Fusion AMD E-350 APU (1.6GHz, Dual-Core) AMD Hudson M1 Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo (6 SATA 6Gb/s ports)
A 2GB kit of Kingston ValueRAM DDR3 1066

I’ll be putting the board into a mid-tower that I already have (a CoolerMaster 590 - with the mesh front and 6 fans in a positive pressure setup, it will stay way cool, dust-free, and leave me a ton of drive space). I’ve got a 500W PSU (not 80 Plus), but I’m wondering if that will be horribly inefficient for use with a 40W system.

I’m hoping the HDDs (two 500GB drives) are in good shape, despite the heat treatment they’ve had - if not, I’ll need to replace them (obviously bumping up capacity - I can get a 2TB drive for what I paid for 1 of the 500GB drives a couple years ago). But I need some low power drives, and I’ve never really bought HDDs for efficiency, only for price - so suggestions here would be welcome also.

What are your thoughts on this?

A requirement of playing several years old games means you don’t need much. If you want to save money and have an adequate system, I can get it down further by going with an AMD cpu and making a few tweaks. If you want something that’s (IMO) worth the extra cost and more future proof, I’d go with this stuff. Your prices on some stuff are a little bit wonky and the site is a bit of a pain to navigate and has a somewhat limited selection, so I may not have picked the absolute ideal parts, but I’d be comfortable recommending:

2500k $209
Antec 600 $99 (HAF 922 $150)
GA-Z68A-D3H $148
corsair TX650v2 psu $119
DDR3 8GB (2x4G) G.Skill 1600MHz PC12800 Ripjaws RAM Kit $89
1TB Western Digital FAEX 7200rpm 64M SATA HDD Black Edition $89
Gigabyte 6850 $175
You’d want a heatsink for overclocking but they don’t have a heatsink section - if you have another retailer there the coolermaster hyper 212+ is considered very good and costs about $30 in the US.
Any reputable dvd burner is fine and they’ll run you around $25.

Your case prices are especially high and that site doesn’t have a lot of selection. For price/value I’d probably grab an Antec 600, it’s a fine case. I put in paranthesis my case - and one I like very much - but it’s a rather expensive $150 and out of stock at the moment. But look it over and decide if better case ergonomics are worth it to you - otherwise the 600 is fine.

Part of the appeal of the sandy bridge (2500k) chips are that they overclock easily and well. If you aren’t interested in overclocking at all, that’d be another reason to snatch up a $100 AMD cpu and cheaper motherboard. If you want to go that route I can pick alternate hardware for you.

I don’t know how windows 7 licensing works in australia. In the US you can grab an OEM copy for $100 or however you want to acquire it.

The hardware I recommended adds up to a little over $900 AUS, or still under $1000 if you add an aftermarket heatsink and dvd burner, which is well under your $1500 max budget, but also well over your requirement of “plays games that came out a couple years ago.” If you wanted to spend any more, the smart place to put the money would be upgrading the video card to a 6950 or 560/570.

So if you want way more than enough to meet that requirement, but still $500+ short of what you’d be willing to spend, go with that stuff. If you just want to meet your requirement, I can cut another $200-300 out of the price.

It’s hard for me to say because I’ve never used the netbook style CPUs and stuff in a desktop system. A 590 is a good case, sounds like you’ll be using like 3% of it :stuck_out_tongue:

PSUs are most efficient in a certain wattage range, typically around 20-80% of load, and aren’t as efficient outside of that. So a 500w PSU is overkill for 40 watts. It won’t hurt anything, it just might use 60 watts out of the wall or something that is relatively inconsequential but bad in terms of percentages.

It’s unlikely your old setup got hot enough to damage your hard drives although just as a general age factor you’ll want to make sure anything important is backed up. I really don’t know what’s good in low power drives - I don’t even consider them, the power savings aren’t really significant (a low power drive might average 5 watts, a high power drive might average 8) … basically, the drives are cheap and slow and they reinvented this as “low power” or “green” which is just silly because the 3-5 watt difference is nothing.

I’ve had nothing but good experiences with western digital so I’d probably go with their green drives.