this is an article that i wrote for school, and i though it would be useful to post because a lot of people seek advice for upgrades and new rigs. This paper is written for non tech savvy people, so most of you will find it draw out and monotonous (spell?). Also plz remember that i am younger than all of you, so this isn't some masterpiece.
NOTE: none of the links that will be mention work cause it would takeforever to make them all again. If you would like the fully functional version with all the links, plese download the included zip file
“Why bother to build a computer?”
“Why do the work of getting all the parts, figuring out how to assemble them, and making sure they work together if you can just buy a pre-assembled system from big companies like Dell or HP?” When you build you own computer you can save loads of money, get exactly what you want, and still get the most of the benefits of buying a pre-built one. As for picking out the parts, I have already picked them out for you.
I have set up three computers, each catering to different budgets and needs. All of the parts listed here are compatible with each other. I also include links to the parts on a website called Newegg.com that is known for good prices and reliability. It is not necessary to use the parts selected, they are simply guidelines and suggestions. For instance, if you do not like the looks of a case I picked out, chose one that is more desirable. I selected parts according to their price, features, reviews, and integrity, so there should be fairly reliable parts in the computers, probably even more so than in pre-built ones. Do not be overwhelmed by the weird numbers and names on parts. Try clicking on the name; I have included links to each part so you can see what they look like, and what people say about them. Finally, all prices are for the computer box and peripherals only. Shipping charges, taxes, monitors, and an operating system are not included. Monitors are widely available and are reusable on different computers. In addition, there are free operating systems, such as Linux, that are alternatives to Microsoft Windows. If you need help finding a monitor or software for your computer, please take a look at the overview section at the end of this article. Also note that the prices on Newegg are liable to change.
Entry Level PC – $276
The entry level PC is for individuals who need basic computer functions such as word processing, and web browsing. I am especially proud of the parts I picked out for the entry level PC because it is probably the best value out of the three computers, mostly because there is not as much competition at this low a price point.
The case I picked out is the APEX PC-115, a simple, sturdy case that comes with a power supply, the thing that handles the power for the computer.
The motherboard of choice is the Intel BOXD101GGCL. The motherboard connects all of the other electronic parts of the computer. This motherboard has an integrated video card, meaning it is built into the motherboard, whereas with other motherboards you have to buy a separate one. Integrated video cards tend to be fairly basic as far as gaming goes, but this one can actually play games better than most of the other integrated cards at this price point. The other neat feature of this motherboard is that it supports PCI-Express. PCI-Express is the most current video card slot; in other words this is where you would put your video card if you decided to upgrade from the integrated card. Basically PCI-Express runs faster than previous slots, and all new video cards are only being released with PCI-Express. And, of course, the Intel BOXD101GGCL has most of the features of other motherboards, such as integrated sound (which has the same traits of integrated video), and USB 2.0 ports (where you attach all your peripherals; 2.0 just means that it is faster).
I recommend the Intel Celeron D 331 processor. This is not a super fast gaming processor or anything, but for its price and features it seems like a great addition to the computer. The Celeron D 331 runs faster than other Celeron D processors. This processor supports 32 or 64 bit processing, so it is compatible with the current version of Windows and will also run newer software and operating systems that are or will be 64 bit. 64 bit programs are capable of handling large, processor intensive tasks, like encoding a video, better than 32 bit programs can. The Intel Celeron D 331 also comes with a three year warranty from Intel.
RAM stands for random access memory. The RAM is what the computer uses to remember what you wrote on a word processing document before you save it or what a web page looks like when you minimize it. The more RAM you have, the more efficiently the processor operates and the more you can multitask. The amount of RAM for this computer is limited by the budget, so I picked out a Patriot Signature Series 256MB stick of RAM, but this is definitely a place to invest in if you have a little extra cash.
A hard drive stores all of your software, files and stuff that you keep for a long time. For example, after you save a word document, the document you wrote is written from RAM to the hard drive. The hard drive that I selected for the Entry Level PC is the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus. This is a 40 gigabyte drive, which will hold a good amount of software, documents, pictures, and music. This hard drive is pretty normal; the only real feature being that it spins at 7200 rpm (revolutions per minute). This means faster data access and, all other things being equal, faster boot times.
The CD drive is where you put compact disks to install software, play games, listen to music, watch movies, or save files. The Rosewill White 16X DVD-ROM functions as both a normal CD player, a CD burner (meaning if you buy blank CDs, you can put all sorts of media on it, like music or pictures), and a DVD player (so you can watch DVD movies on your PC).
If you have ever used a computer before, you will know that the keyboard and mouse are the basic input devices that let you control the computer. Because we are on a low budget, I chose the DCT Factory OG-312 for the keyboard and mouse. This package is pretty neat for its thirteen dollar price-tag because it comes with a keyboard with extra multimedia buttons, an optical mouse (optical mice are better than ball mice because it tracks your movement a lot better, and they never need to be cleaned), and includes a set a speakers.
If you are a student on a low budget, or just need a basic computer, this is definitely the computer for you. You really cannot beat the price for the power you are getting. Although you may be able to play some older or less graphics intensive games on this computer, if you want something with a little more power, then you might want to invest a little more and get my midrange computer.
Midrange PC - $523
The midrange PC is for users who do not need a crazy top-of-the-line gaming computer but would like to play games on higher graphic settings. This computer will provide enough room for your music library, the ability to multitask a little more, and the power to play games at a price that will still leave you with money to buy a game or a few songs.
The midrange computer was the hardest for me to pick out because I had a tendency to select stuff that was too expensive for this budget. However there are some cool things that you can get at a low price, such as the POWMAX CP0327PL-4 case. This case is sturdy and comes with a good sized power supply, but it also has some crazy lights on the inside and a window so you can check out what is inside your computer without opening it up. Now this case is a great example of something that I find appealing but a lot of people probably do not really care for a purple light and window in their case. In this case (no pun intended), then you can browse newegg.com for a different case, or just use the APEX PC-115 I picked out for the entry level PC.
The ASUS A8N-E motherboard is a reliable motherboard that works well with the processor I chose. This motherboard has most of the features that the previous motherboard had, like integrated sound and PCI-Express (although no integrated video on this one), but also has room for upgrading. This motherboard supports AMD’s dual core (also called X2) processors, which will become required more and more as dual core software develops, so you will not have to buy a new computer just to run a piece of software in the future. The ASUS A8N-E also uses the nForce4 chipset, which is known for its features and reliability. This motherboard should be stable and upgradeable for a long time.
For this computer, I chose the AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Venice processor. The two best known processor manufacturers are Intel and AMD. Although AMD is becoming increasingly popular, Intel still rules the market, and is a company that everyone knows and trusts. However those who do know of AMD have probably heard that its processor is faster, more stable, and cheaper than Intel’s. Although I can only personally vouch that they are cheaper, I have read countless articles about them, and concluded that at the present, AMD processors are better. Other than that, this processor also has 64 bit support, and is considerably faster than the processor in the entry level computer.
RAM is an important element of any computer. From gaming to just multitasking, you will notice the difference between 256mb and 512mb of RAM. That is why I picked out the Kingston ValueRAM 512MB, which is just a stick of cheap, reliable RAM that comes with a lifetime warranty.
Like the RAM, the HITACHI Deskstar hard drive is basically a reliable, bigger, and a little faster, hard drive. Compared to the hard drive in the entry level PC, this hard drive has twice as much space in it, leaving you with 80 gigabytes, and should be a bit faster because it uses a faster connector.
Unlike the RAM and the hard drive, which are pretty bland as features go, the SAPPHIRE Radeon X1300 is a highlight of the midrange PC. This video card is made by ATI, and is part of their newest line of video cards. This means that it has all the new technology and enough power to play almost any game you can throw at it. This video card is pretty good for the price; it has 256mb of onboard memory (which is RAM dedicated to the video card -- a must have for most modern games), high clock speeds so that it runs faster, and support for Shader Model 3.0, which is becoming another must have because it renders shadows and depth more realistically. However keep in mind that we are on a budget, and this video card is only $86, so do not be surprised if this cannot run every game on its highest setting.
We are going to be using the same CD/DVD player in this computer as we did in the entry level PC (we used the Rosewill White 16X DVD-ROM) so it has all the same features; it can play and burn CDs and watch DVDs.
Now for the peripherals. For the keyboard we are using the LITE-ON SK-1789, which is a pretty normal keyboard with some extra keys at the top to perform various functions. Along with our normal keyboard I chose the Logitech Value 953817-0403, a wired optical mouse from a reliable company, and got good reviews…plus you really cannot beat six bucks for an optical mouse from Logitech. Also coming from Logitech are our speakers, the Logitech S-100, which are normal desktop speakers (is anyone else noticing a trend?).
And that is all the parts for the midrange PC. So if you are someone who likes to play games or if your kids like to play computer games, this is a system that I would recommend.
Budget Gaming PC - $906
If you like to play games on your computer but want them to look good – but do not have the money to go buy one a big name gaming PC from Dell or Alienware, then you should consider the budget gaming PC. However if you only plan to browse the internet and write papers, maybe you should check out the entry level or midrange PC.
The Rosewill TU-155 is a sturdy black case with a glossy front and a steel body. It also has a big window on the side and some lights that make it look like something from Star Wars landed in your room – always a good thing. It comes with a power supply that should power everything alright, although if there seem to be problems with your PC while gaming, I would consider a larger power supply. This is another one of those items that probably is only appealing to people under the age of thirty, so feel free to pick a different case.
The ASUS A8N-SLI Premium motherboard is special because is supports something known as SLI. SLI is an acronym for Scalable Link Interface and is a technology used by Nvidia (there are two major video card producers for gaming; ATI and Nvidia, the video card in our previous PC was made by ATI). SLI allows two of the same video cards to be plugged into one motherboard for better results (although the performance is not doubled). Most new Nvidia video cards support SLI, but you also need an SLI motherboard (there are basically two PCI-Express slots in a SLI motherboard) for this to work. So if you get some extra cash, then you can buy another 6800 GS (the video card we will be using; for SLI to work you must have two of the same cards). Plug it in and you will be good to go (although now you definitely will have to get that bigger power supply). Along with SLI this motherboard has all the basics: integrated sound, support for dual core processors, USB 2.0 ports, and the nForce 4 chipset.
Our processor for this gaming rig is the AMD Athlon 64 3700+ San Diego. This is basically a faster version of the processor we used on the midrange PC, so it still has all the features, like 64 bit support.
If you are going to seriously play games in this day and age, you are going to need one gigabyte of RAM (and increasingly this number is moving to two gigabytes). That is why I selected the gigaram 1GB stick of RAM. Aside from the larger capacity, this RAM will run faster than other RAM and comes with a heat spreader (makes the RAM cooler, which is especially important if you are over-clocking it, or playing games that make it work hard). It also carries a lifetime warranty.
The video card makes this computer a gaming rig. The XFX Geforce 6800 GS 256mb from Nvidia has generated nothing but praise and excitement. Nvidia really nailed it on this card because of the fabulous price/performance ratio. This card has 256mb memory, like the X1300, but has 3x more pixel pipelines (the things that process and render pixels; more is better), and comes factory over clocked (means that it is set to run faster than the same card from other companies).
For the high end computer, you get a high end hard drive; the Western Digital Caviar SE. This drive uses the newest port, which means it will be faster, and has 120 gigabytes of space, enough for you to take you media library to the next level.
The name of this DVD burner is so long that I am not even sure how to phrase it…so I am just going to called it the NEC DVD Burner (click on that link, I swear I have never seen anything like that). This DVD burner can burn and play CDs, and can play and burn a plethora of DVDs. Also it is black, so it matches the case.
If you are going to buy a gaming computer, you have to have a cool wireless mouse and keyboard so you can blow up aliens while lying in bed. That is why I picked the Logitech Cordless Internet Pro Desktop, which is a wireless keyboard and mouse combo. The keyboard has those nifty little functions keys, and the mouse is optical. They come from Logitech, so they should be reliable, and they match the case too. Speakers are also important for gamers because if you play with the sound off, someone is going to come up behind you and you are not going to hear their footsteps, so they are going to blow your head off. The DCT Factory OG-350 will give you the heads up when your enemies are near, but will tell everyone near you when you do get your head blown off because it has that great subwoofer. These too, match the case…kinda.
If you just have to be able to see the detailed blood and gore in your games, or maybe you just want to make sure that you will see that shadow of the person coming around the corner, this is the computer for you. This computer will be able to play any game you throw at it (at least any game that is out now).
Note: I made the cover page using GIMP, an open source graphics program and used the trial version of Adobe Photoshop CS2 for the glow around the text. Credit is also due to Ryan Bliss of Digitalblasphemy.com who made the iceberg background called “Arctica”, and to fence-post of www.deviantart.com for converting Layla’s Tech brush set to GIMP.
Entry Level - REFURBISHED: AOC D1770-BLK – $70
Midrange - Acer AL1511 - $178
Gamer - Hyvision MV178 - $193
Free Operating System, Utilities, and Software
Operating System – Linux
Office Suite - Open Office
Anti Spyware - Ad-Aware
Anti Virus - Clam Win
Photo Manipulation – G.I.M.P
Game - Warrock
Media Player – iTunes, Winamp
E-mail - Gmail
How to Build Your Computer – Build Your Own PC