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New Computer Building Time
  • August 2011
    Posts: 0
    This is targeted primarily at Eugene, but everyone is free to chime in.

    I'm planning to start upgrading my computer, and I wanted some input on what processors/video cards I should be looking at. I'm aiming for much more top-of-the-line hardware than the last time I did this (target is to make the computer last 4-5 years [I know, prolly won't happen]). I'm good on my hard drive, but just about everything else is just about ready for an upgrade.

    Any suggestions for parts?
  • EugeneEugene August 2011
    Posts: 1,684

    Well, your premise is somewhat flawed. Buying a more expensive computer doesn't extend it's projected "lifetime" all that much. You spend more money for more performance, but since performance (at all levels, not just CPU) doubles every year, the longer you wait, the more you dwarf the range of available performance (cheap vs expensive) at the time of your purchase. To put it another way, the kind of technology available even as early as, say, a year from now is simply unavailable right now, no matter how much you can afford.

    It's funny that you say you don't plan on switching out the hard drive, because (and this is going to annoy you for exactly that reason) if someone asked me what the best and most noticable improvement they can make to nearly any machine is, I'd say it's using a solid-state drive (SSD) instead of a magnetic disk drive.

    To be more specific about other parts, I'd need to know your approximate budget. How much do you want to spend? There's more questions, too, but, you know, one step at a time.

  • August 2011
    Posts: 0
    I didn't mention hard disk primarily because that was the last piece of hardware I upgraded, though I don't have an SSD. Really I don't have issues with load times with my current hard disk, which is why I wasn't thinking about getting one this time around. It may be worthwhile now to pay for one, now that they're getting cheaper. How crazy would you suggest investing in them?

    I'm willing to spend upwards of $1000 to upgrade my machine. I know I'm definitely in need of a new processor (I'm currently using a Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz). My video card is semi-okay (ATI Radeon HD 4800), but is starting to show its age. I'm at 6 GB of RAM.

    Along with all that, it may be getting time to get a new monitor. Mine is currently pretty beat up, but it's by no means necessary. May be getting close to a new tower too, as the one I'm currently using is worn down.
  • EugeneEugene August 2011
    Posts: 1,684

    Monitors are relatively easy, but there's one thing that people often forget about monitors. The monitor determines the resolution you'll be using for Windows and games (unless you use a non-native resolution, which immediately lowers the quality of the picture). The higher the resolution, the more detail you can see in a game. Unfortunately, resolution is also one of the key determining factors in how quickly your GFX card can render, affecting framerate. The larger a monitor you get, the more powerful of a GFX card you will want to keep up with it.

    I personally find two 24" monitors perfect -- I find anything larger slips out of my comfortable vision zone, and anything smaller is, well, too small. The majority of 24" monitors come in approximately 1920x1200, though you'll see a lot of 1920x1080 ones that are really just LCD TVs. I'd personally recommend staying away from 1080-high resolutions UNLESS you primarily use the monitor for watching video. 1920x1200 still allows perfect 1080p playback because the p;ayer just ignores 120 pixel rows. And 1920x1200 is a more natural size for a monitor -- widescreen but no staggeringly so like the 1080p sets are. Your call though.

    If you go higher than 24" on a monitor, be careful about the resolution. 2560x1600 is very, very hard on a graphics card, and I personally find monitors that display it to be too large.

    There's also the issue of pixel size. Smaller pixels are typically better -- so the higher a resolution you find for a given size, the smaller the pixel will be. I think these types of monitors are rare enough to ignore, for the most part, unless you're willing to pay a lot extra for a monitor with tiny pixels that you really appreciate.

    Then there's the issue of whether to get one monitor or two. It doesn't actually affect framerate much as long as you only use a single monitor for the game. Personal preference here.

    As far as CPU goes, since you've got the budget I'd recommend Intel personally. In my opinion, they make a superior high end CPU unless you want to overclock, in which case I am out of my element and have no idea who's top dog right now.

    You probably want an i7 CPU -- just click that link and pick a CPU that fits in your price range. Tom's Hardware and other places have many pretty graphs that can show you exactly what you're paying for when you buy one CPU versus another, but the reality of the situation is that if you graph the prices for hardware like CPUs and graphics cards, you'll find a sweet spot in the low-middle that offers the best value, and the higher you go, the worse your value becomes but the better your performance becomes. Tom's Hardware graphs will confirm this trend. Just pick whichever one you want to pay for. Just keep in mind that as long as you're getting ANY i7 CPU, you've basically got plenty of processing power, and a CPU doesn't affect gaming nearly as much as it affects CPU-intensive applications like Photoshop, WinRar, and so on.

    Decide whether you want a blu-ray drive or a regular burner. Drives are cheaper than "set top" bluray players and more convenient if you want to watch a blu-ray movie while using your computer, but their one downside is that actually playing a bluray movie on a PC is a hassle. You either need a license for PowerDVD or WinDVD (to my knowledge, those are the only two official (legal?) ways to play Blurays) or spend a little time setting up stuff like AnyDVD HD (which isn't free either but is piratable if you're into that sort of thing). It's totally worth it for me since I prefer to watch movies in the comfort of my computer desk, but your mileage may vary.

    I think that loading times aren't the only reason to get an SSD. You will notice a very definite difference in things like computer startup, software will startup and load "snappier." I can hardly stand to use a computer without an SSD, personally. I think they are the biggest leap in technology since, like, the boom in multi-threaded CPUs.

    The problem with SSDs is that since they're not spinning hard drives, but rather a type of electronic memory like RAM, all the memory manufacturers are trying to get into the market. This makes it hard to figure out what company to trust -- just because a company makes a good stick of motherboard RAM doesn't mean their software team can write a proper SSD driver, among other things. I'd recommend doing some research about the brands and models you see on the market.

    I'm a little un-educated in this area since I already have an SSD and people rarely ask me to build computers with one (since they were very expensive until recently), but if you're not willing to do the research, I'd feel comfortable recommending Intel, who had an excellent reputation with SSDs back in the dark ages where the market was flooded with garbage. They were one of the first companies to market consumer SSDs and they've consistently performed extremely well in performance tests and so on.

    Be careful about which SSD you buy... Intel sold three types of SSDs when I was looking into them -- a dinky "intro" drive which people generally considered to be not worthy the money, a normal consumer drive (what I have), and an enterprise drive that had superior performance but cost enough money to fund a war.

    There's more to say about the topic of computer building but let me know what you think about all this and we can narrow down what choices are still left to make.

  • August 2011
    Posts: 0

    Is there a particular brand that I should keep an eye out for monitor selection?

  • EugeneEugene September 2011
    Posts: 1,684

    There are a lot of monitor brands. I can't think of any well-known bad monitor brands. Sony, Dell, Samsung, Hanns-G, Acer, are all monitors I've owned and liked.

    One thing I didn't mention above as far as monitors are concerned is glossy vs. matte. Glossy monitors are those that seem to have a pane of glass in front of the screen. They look really crisp and smooth... until there's a light behind you and glare blocks half the screen. I can't stand these monitors, but for some reason some people like them. Be sure you're getting the kind you want. I accidentally ended up with a glossy  monitor once when I wasn't paying attention and had to resell it.

  • September 2011
    Posts: 0

    Is there any indication in the product details that will indicate Matte versus Glossy? I don't see anything mentioning that in Newegg product descriptions.

  • EugeneEugene September 2011
    Posts: 1,684

    My information might be outdated. Doing some google searching for glossy vs matte, I get results from 2007 and 2008, which is about the time glossy screens got popular. When adding 2011 to the search terms, I get tons of results about comparing laptops with glossy vs matte screens, but no info on normal monitors. I think for the most part modern monitors are a balance between the two -- no glare and crisp colors. If you're worried about glare, buy a monitor with an LCD backlight just incase, though. Newegg does have a filter for that. Keep in mind that an LCD backlight reduces glare, but when watching movies with lots of dark or black screens, you'll see the light coming through. You'll remember this effect from the Nintendo SP, which was backlit.

  • September 2011
    Posts: 0
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • raging+drunk+ladraging drunk lad October 2011
    Posts: 6,459
    It'll probably be ages before Eugene answers this, but oh well: is there any reason to buy a hybrid SSD?
  • FerretFerret October 2011
    Posts: 972
    Today they'll release the system requirements for Skyrim. Today I'll find out how much I need to upgrade.
  • NinielNiniel October 2011
    Posts: 652
    So how bad is the damage?

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